WASHINGTON - Centrist Senate Democrats, concerned about the scope of U.S. President Obama's budget plans, say they're trying to boost their influence in budget debates.
Fourteen Democrats and one Independent met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss how they could leverage their stake as lawmakers take up the $3.6 trillion budget proposal, Politico reported.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who helped broker the $787 billion stimulus compromise, said told Politico he has "major concerns about trying to raise taxes in the midst of a downturn of the economy."
Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu said she expected the newly formed Senate caucus to exert influence on the budget proposal as it moves through Congress.
"We want to give the president a chance, but our concern is going to be on the budget, looking forward," Landrieu told the Washington publication.
While agreeing with Obama that "fundamental change" is needed in fiscal policy, Landrieu said, "(We) do have to keep our eye on the long term, on intermediate- and long-term fiscal responsibility."
Ken Baer, communications director for the Office of Management and Budget, said the budget overview is the administration's strategy for addressing issues "that have been overlooked for some time now," and that the White House looked forward to working with Congress to tackle the challenges.
In his budget request, Obama called for a huge restructuring of federal priorities, including a $634 billion fund to overhaul the country's healthcare system. To help achieve his goals, Obama proposed a number of tax hikes that have received an unenthusiastic reception from Republicans and moderate Democrats.
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