By MARTIN CRUTSINGER
WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told Congress on Thursday that the Obama administration is optimistic about a budget deal, but he urged lawmakers to consider concessions already made in President Barack Obama's $3.8 trillion spending request.
In testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee, Lew said that the budget request put forward Wednesday represents a balanced approach. It claims $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade, although $1.2 trillion of that would be devoted to reversing automatic cuts that were part of a 2011 budget deal.
The budget the administration unveiled on Wednesday contains spending curbs on Social Security and Medicare and new taxes totaling close to $1 trillion over 10 years.
"These proposals are based on the conviction that an agreement is within our reach," Lew said during the hearing, his first congressional appearance since becoming Treasury secretary in February.
Lew will also testify Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee on Obama's budget for next year. The budget year begins Oct. 1.
Lew told lawmakers that Obama wants a deal on the budget. He noted that the president has incorporated several proposals made in December negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner.
Lew mentioned that he first testified before the Ways and Means Committee in 1973 and that over the past four decades he can recall a number of bipartisan agreements reached on critical issues.
"The debate we are engaged in is very important," Lew told lawmakers. "I believe we can find common ground."
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