WASHINGTON — Howard Dean has had it with President Obama's budget proposal, saying the plan put forward by the White House might just drive him from the Democratic Party he once led as DNC chair.
On Sunday night, Dean tweeted that the restoration of some defense sequestration cuts contained in Obama's budget proposal were a step too far when coupled with the president's entitlement cut proposal that progressives like Dean are already livid about.
"If this is true I may have to become an independant [sic]," Dean wrote, before linking to an April 10 article by Bloomberg BusinessWeek's Josh Green.
Dean doubled down on his threat to leave the part in an interview with BuzzFeed Monday. The White House did not respond directly, but an official did push back Monday on the thrust of Dean's attacks.
"I just think that's unacceptable," Dean said. "If this passed I would have to reevaluate if I belong in the Democratic Party. If this were passed with Democratic votes, I think it would be impossible to be Democrat."
"I would have to oppose any Democrat that is supportive of this," Dean added.
In an email to several Democratic consultants Sunday night he forwarded to BuzzFeed, Dean excoriated the White House over the defense spending in Obama's budget proposal.
"If the businessweek.com article I sent you is correct, it means the Prez proposed chain CPI cutting SS benefits while asking to restore Pentagon spending. He would never get that through either chamber," Dean wrote. "What the hell are they thinking or is BW wrong?"
The progressive group Dean founded, Democracy for America, which is currently led by his brother, Jim Dean, backed up the former Vermont governor's take on the Obama's defense proposal.
Dean doubted such a proposal would even have the votes in Congress to pass.
"I don't think Democrats will vote for it. I can't see how you can expect Democrats in the Senate to support a budget that cuts entitlements and increases the Defense budget," Dean continued. "I can't imagine Republicans voting for this in swing districts."
Obama and many Democrats — including those who have run the Defense Department during Obama's administration — have argued that the $500 billion in across-the-board sequestration cuts to the Pentagon's budget over the next 10 years would be detrimental to national security. As the April 10 article states, Obama's budget restores $400 billion of those cuts, which a former Office of Management and Budget official told Green is "one of the peace offerings in Obama's package to Republicans." (The House Republican budget restores all $500 billion in Pentagon cuts.)
"Ultimately, the president needs to answer a simple question," Democracy for America spokesperson Neil Sroka told BuzzFeed. "Why are you choosing to sell out the Democratic legacy and cut seniors' and veterans' Social Security benefits to reinstate Pentagon pork and give millionaire defense industry executives back their seat at the government trough?"
The White House declined to respond to Dean directly. But an official noted that Obama has already called for cuts to the Pentagon budget and again defended Obama's proposed entitlement cuts against progressive critics. The official said the White House plan only cuts entitlements if Republicans agree to revenue increases (liberals have called for higher taxes) and specifically carves out exceptions to the cuts in Social Security benefits for the poor.
Evan McMorris-Santoro is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News.
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Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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