WASHINGTON - Repeatedly since taking office, President Obama has said his administration was combing through the federal budget "line by line" to root out wasteful spending.
Finding it is one thing, getting Congress to sign on is another. And, by Republican accounts, he hasn't found that much anyway.
Mr. Obama sent Congress a detailed budget yesterday proposing to eliminate or trim 121 programs and save $17 billion next year - not a trifle, for sure, but only about half of 1 percent of the $3.4 trillion in federal spending for the fiscal year beginning in October.
The size of the savings clearly was a sore subject at the White House.
Mr. Obama told reporters that $17 billion is "significant."
Still, Mr. Obama's hit list was smaller than the one President George W. Bush included in his budget last year targeting 151 programs for $34 billion in savings.
Mr. Bush didn't have much luck in getting those cuts through the Democratic-contolled Congress. And Mr. Obama may run into some of the same difficulties.
In fact, he brought back some of the same Bush-proposed cuts for return appearances - including a $400 million-a-year program that reimburses states and localities for holding suspected criminals who are in the country illegally.
That program has been popular with governors and border-state lawmakers.
Even with the cuts, the White House estimates the government's red ink still will be about $1.2 trillion, down only slightly from this year's all-time record.
Republicans scoffed that Mr. Obama's cuts were not nearly enough.
"They appear to be a diversionary tactic - an effort to change the subject away from the unprecedented debt this budget heaps on future generations," House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said.