WASHINGTON — Facing voter anger over mounting budget deficits, President Obama will ask Congress to freeze spending for some domestic programs for three years starting in 2011, administration officials said Monday.
Separately, Obama unveiled plans to help a middle class "under assault" pay its bills, save for retirement and care for kids and aging parents.
The spending freeze would apply to a relatively small portion of the federal budget, affecting $477 billion available for domestic agencies whose budgets are approved by Congress each year. Some could get increases, while others would have to face cuts; such programs got an almost 10 percent increase this year. The federal budget total was $3.5 trillion.
The three-year plan will be part of the budget Obama will submit Feb. 1, senior administration officials said, commenting on condition of anonymity to reveal private details. They said Obama was expected to propose the freeze Wednesday night in his State of the Union address.
The Pentagon, veterans programs, foreign aid and the Homeland Security Department would be exempt.
The savings would be small at first, perhaps $10 billion to $15 billion, one official said. But over the coming decade, savings would add up to $250 billion.
The White House is under considerable pressure to cut deficits — the red ink hit a record $1.4 trillion this year — or at least keep them from growing. Encouraged by last week's Massachusetts Senate victory, Republicans are hitting hard on the issue, and polls show voters increasingly concerned.
Obama's separate public comments previewed other topics in the State of the Union address. It will outline his second-year agenda across a spectrum of issues, including tighter rules on Wall Street behavior and a push for financial discipline in Washington. He also is expected to touch on the controversial issue of gays in the military.
The economic proposals he described won't create jobs, but he said they could "re-establish some of the security that's slipped away." His remarks aimed to lift the nation's dour mood and show he is in touch with the daily struggles of millions of people as resentment runs high about lost jobs and the economy.
The initiatives will be included in Obama's budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, and they will require approval from Congress. Obama will release that budget Feb. 1.
The White House maintained that its imperative still is to create jobs. Unemployment remains in double digits, and the economy is the public's top concern. Yet Obama said that squeezed families need help in other ways, too: paying for child care, helping out aging parents, saving for retirement, paying off college debt.
What matters ultimately to people, Obama said, is "whether they see some progress in their own lives. So we're going to keep fighting to rebuild our economy so that hard work is once again rewarded, wages and incomes are once again rising, the middle class is once again growing."
Less clear was how much the programs would cost or where the money would come from.
Officials deferred comment until the release of the budget.
On the matter of gays in the military, Obama has promised to lift the ban on gays serving openly, and several lawmakers support a repeal of the law. But some senior military advisers and members of Congress have urged him not to shake up the status quo at a time of two wars.
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he had planned to convene a hearing on the issue in January, but that the Obama administration asked him to hold off until the president's national address.
"We were told by the Pentagon that they expected the president to say something in the State of the Union on it," Levin said.
Levin, who favors repealing the law, said he does not know what Obama will say.