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September 25, 2017

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Obama unveils election year 'growth and jobs' budget

Washington (AFP) - President Barack Obama proposed a budget Tuesday for the coming fiscal year that has less to do with managing US finances than with stemming his party's losses in congressional elections.

The mildly expansionary $3.9-trillion plan has little chance of passing Congress but Obama will use it as a platform to underline his populist voter-friendly narrative ahead of the polls in November.

Obama's Democrats have almost no chance of winning back the House of Representatives and are in grave peril of losing the Senate -- a scenario that would guarantee a miserable last two years in office for the president.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll on Tuesday revealed the challenge, showing that of 34 states with Senate races, 50 percent of voters favor Republicans and 42 percent favor Democrats.

Obama, however, sought to stay positive and reiterated the vision that saw him re-elected in 2012, telling supporters in a speech at a Washington elementary school, that the budget was about "choices" and "values".

"As a country, we have to make a decision, if we are going to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, or create jobs, grow our economy, and expand opportunity for every American," he said.

Senior White House officials admit the budget document is largely aspirational, given that the president's top priorities are routinely blocked by Republicans in Congress.

Broad spending levels have also already been set by a two year budget agreement reached by top Democratic and Republican negotiators in Congress in December.

But Obama used the budget to showcase ideas he thinks will give him, and his beleaguered supporters in Congress, the edge, despite his 41 percent approval rating which is heavily attributed to an unpopular health care law.

The president's budget director Sylvia Matthews Burwell, hailed the document as a "fiscal road map for accelerating economic growth, expanding opportunity and ensuring fiscal responsibility."

"It includes fully paid for investments in infrastructure, job training, preschool and pro-work tax cuts," she said.

"At the same time it reduces deficits and strengthens our long-term fiscal outlook through additional health care reforms, tax reform and by fixing our broken immigration system."

Obama proposed an extra $56-billion in spending above agreed budget levels, to be financed by closing tax loopholes which benefit the rich and in mandatory spending reform.

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