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Obama to seek end of austerity in 2015 budget

– President Barack Obama’s forthcoming budget request will seek tens of billions of dollars in fresh spending for domestic priorities while abandoning a compromise proposal to tame the national debt in part by trimming Social Security benefits.

With the 2015 budget request, Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency.

Instead, the president will focus on pumping new cash into job training, early childhood education and other programs aimed at bolstering the middle class.

As part of that strategy, Obama will jettison the framework he unveiled last year for a “grand bargain” that would have raised taxes on the rich and reined in skyrocketing retirement spending.

A centerpiece of that framework was a proposal – demanded by GOP leaders – to use a less-generous measure of inflation to calculate Social Security benefits.

The idea infuriated Democrats and never gained much traction with rank-and-file Republicans, who also were unwilling to contemplate tax increases of any kind. On Thursday, administration officials said the grand-bargain framework remains on the table – but that it was time to move on.

“Over the course of last year, Republicans consistently showed a lack of willingness to negotiate on a deficit-reduction deal, refusing to identify even one unfair tax loophole they would be willing to close,” said a White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the budget before its official release.

“That is not going to stop the president from promoting new policies that should be part of our public debate.”

Republicans said emerging details of the president’s budget prove he was never serious about addressing the nation’s long-term debt problems.

“This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: The president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

“The one and only idea the president has to offer is even more job-destroying tax hikes, and that non-starter won’t do anything to save the entitlement programs that are critical to so many Americans,” Buck said in the statement.

The new budget request, due March 4, comes during a relative lull in Washington’s lengthy budget wars.

Late last year, Congress approved a two-year spending plan that would ease automatic cuts, known as the sequester.

This month, Congress agreed to forgo another battle over the federal debt limit, voting to suspend its enforcement until March 2015.

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