Obama Calls For Spending Surge, Buoyed By Rising Economy

WASHINGTON (AP) -

Declaring an end to “mindless austerity,” President Barack Obama called for a surge in government spending Thursday, and asked Congress to throw out the sweeping budget cuts both parties agreed to four years ago when deficits were spiraling out of control.

Obama’s proposed $74 billion in added spending ­— about 7 percent —would be split about evenly between defense programs and the domestic side of the budget. Although he’s sought before to reverse the “sequester” ‘’spending cuts, Obama’s pitch in this year’s budget comes with the added oomph of an improving economy and big recent declines in federal deficits.

“If Congress rejects my plan and refuses to undo these arbitrary cuts, it will threaten our economy and our military,” Obama warned in an op-ed article Thursday in The Huffington Post. He said the nation’s debt still would decline as a share of the overall economy under his plan.

The figures represent Obama’s opening offer as he gears up for a budget battle with the new Congress.

The Republicans promise to produce a balanced budget blueprint this spring even as they worry about Pentagon spending.

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, dismissed the Obama proposals as “happy talk.” And Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said, “We can’t be abandoning spending discipline. That’s what the president wants to do.”

GOP lawmakers are focused primarily on reversing restraints on military spending, while Democrats and Obama are seeking new domestic dollars for education, research, health care and infrastructure.

Republicans argue that spending more in so many areas would undo the hard-fought reductions in the country’s annual deficit.

They also oppose many of the tax hikes Obama has proposed to pay for the increased spending.