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Posted at 04:00 PM ET, 04/13/2011

Obama’s budget speech: Reactions from Congress


President Barack Obama outlines his fiscal policy during an address at George Washington University in Washington, Wednesday, April 13, 2011. (President Obama delivers a speech at GWU. (AP))
Members of Congress reacted on Wednesday to President Obama’s George Washington University address on debt reduction, in which Obama described his plan to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over twelve years.

Here are some of the Capitol Hill reactions. (We’ll continue to update this throughout the day):

Senate Republicans

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget: “While I am pleased President Obama has acknowledged the budget he put forward in February failed to address the nation’s looming fiscal crisis, I continue to be disappointed by the lack of specific proposals from the President to fix our staggering debt and deficit. His budget plan was a political document that called for more spending and rejected the serious recommendations of his own Fiscal Commission, which set a deficit reduction goal of more than $4 trillion over 10 years. This goal should be the standard for any serious plan to reduce the deficit.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.): “Once again today, President Obama delivered another speech that was good on rhetoric, but short on details. And for the families and job creators who are struggling to make ends meet, the President’s plan to raise taxes is simply the wrong approach. ... Unfortunately, President Obama’s plan, as he said during the campaign, ‘spread the wealth,’ would punish the very small businesses that fuel our economy. Washington has to do better. The President needs to lead. We need to do the right things, and do them now.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), in a speech on the Senate floor: “Taxing citizens and businesses more is not going to fix what is essentially a spending problem. ... Mr. President, I’m hoping that the president will give a speech someday that really will make a difference on spending, because that’s clearly what the problem is. Not tax revenues, it’s spending. I think we’ve had enough of that.”

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.): “The President made it absolutely clear today that Democrats will cling bitterly to deficit spending until our nation is bankrupt. ... I will join with Republican colleagues to demand passage of the balanced budget amendment before a vote to raise our debt ceiling. The balanced budget amendment is the only way to force President Obama and Democrats to stop the rhetoric and get serious about tackling our out of control spending and debt.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah): “While it is encouraging the President has finally decided to participate in the deficit debate, it is disappointing that he has offered a so-called framework that ignores the destructive, burdensome long-term costs of entitlements and reversed his position on increasing taxes on the American people. What the President calls ‘savings’ won’t scratch the surface of our annual deficit and, without a plan to balance the budget, the President continues to increase the national debt to unfathomable and irresponsible levels, which threatens our future prosperity. ... The President has proposed only symbolic spending ‘cuts’ and higher taxes for Americans. His speech today shows he is simply not serious about real deficit reduction.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.): “President Obama still seems to think that the source of prosperity in America is more government. The spending cuts he proposes are insufficient and the tax increases he embraces are counterproductive to the country’s economic recovery and growth. While I’m pleased that he has rhetorically acknowledged the need for spending cuts and deficit reduction, we need more than rhetoric. I hope the president will work with us to enact the kind of fiscally responsible policies we need to put our country on a long-term sustainable path.”

Senate Democrats

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.): “The President’s responsible vision for reducing the deficit provides a clear contrast with Republicans’ reckless plan to end Medicare and Social Security. The President’s plan will reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion while protecting seniors on Medicare, and it recognizes that Social Security should be dealt with separately. The Republican plan, on the other hand, uses the shared goal of reducing our deficit as an excuse for slashing seniors’ hard-earned benefits in order to pay for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. ... I look forward to sitting down with my colleagues and the President to chart a course to deficit reduction that strengthens the middle class and protects seniors.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Six”: “Our bipartisan group of six Senators continues to work for a comprehensive solution to our nation’s debt. The President’s speech makes it clear that he is committed to the same goal.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a statement via Twitter: “@barackobama is absolutely right that we need all above approach to deficit reduction. Defense and revenues must be on table”

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee: “President Obama set the right spirit and tone in his remarks today. To solve our long-term fiscal crisis, we are going to have to break through the partisanship and gridlock that has taken hold in Washington. Democrats and Republicans must be willing to put aside our differences and find common ground. We need to sit down together, with everything on the table, and negotiate a comprehensive, balanced, and bipartisan long-term deficit and debt reduction plan. The nation’s strength and security depend on it.”

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.): “I agree with the president’s overall message today. In particular, I strongly support ending tax cuts for millionaires – I opposed extending those irresponsible tax breaks in December. We must invest in programs that will move our economy forward, cut what doesn’t work, and take aggressive steps to pay down our national debt. Such a plan is critical to encourage strong private-sector job growth and keep the American dream alive for generations to come.”

House Republicans

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio): “Unsustainable debt and deficits threaten the prosperity of our children and the health and retirement security of our seniors. Republicans, led by Chairman Ryan, have set the bar with a jobs budget that puts us on a path to paying down the debt and preserves Medicare and Medicaid for the future. This afternoon, I didn’t hear a plan to match it from the President. ... To reduce the economic uncertainty hanging over American job creators we must demonstrate that we’re willing to take action. And any plan that starts with job-destroying tax hikes is a non-starter. We need to grow our economy – not our government – by creating a better environment for private sector job growth. That’s why Republicans are fighting for meaningful spending cuts and fighting against any tax increases on American small businesses.”

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.): “Sequels are never as good as the original, and even worse when the original bombs. That certainly applies to the President’s budget ‘do-over’ speech, which merely repackages a proposal for trillions in higher taxes, more debt, and unchecked deficits due to unsustainable spending. ... Our country can make a bold comeback by addressing our challenges head on, as House Republicans have pledged to do, or we can begin a long fade into history. The choice is ours to make, and we must make the right one.”

House Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.): “I’m glad President Obama has finally joined the conversation about reducing our skyrocketing and unsustainable debt, even if it took leadership by congressional Republicans to spur it. Regrettably, his speech was largely more of the same from his widely-panned budget, failing to address the real driver of our debt while embracing trillions in new job-crushing tax increases.”

Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.): “After proposing to lock in his record $1.6 trillion deficit with a budget freeze scheme, I’m glad to see President Obama reverse himself and pay some attention to America’s call for fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, the President would like to pin the blame for our $14 trillion debt on hardworking Americans in the form of higher taxes.”

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.): “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The president needs go back to the White House, formulate a new plan, draft a new speech and then try again. Not only does his proposed plan fail to meet the deficit reduction benchmarks set by his own fiscal commission, it doesn’t even come close meeting the benchmarks set by House Republicans. The president needs to take the fiscal crisis facing our country seriously by offering a credible deficit reduction plan that balances the budget in ten years or less without raising taxes on Americans.”

House Democrats

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): “Today, President Obama presented not only a strong vision for America’s future, but a strategic plan for how we achieve it. The President took the debate to a higher ground, focusing on the priorities Americans hold most dear and the principles that make our country strong. ... Democratic priorities stand in stark contrast with the Republican vision that ends Medicare and shifts costs to seniors as it gives tax breaks to Big Oil and millionaires.”

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), the vice-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission: “President Obama could not have been clearer: we must responsibly reduce the deficit through shared sacrifice -- not on the backs of seniors and working families alone. ... It’s time for House Republicans to stop ignoring the policies of the past that drove our country into this mess. Put everything on the table and start making the hard choices to get us out.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.): “We must reduce the deficit and maintain essential programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. To some, that might sound like a trip to the moon, but that was at the heart of the President’s message today. We cannot live under this reverse-Robin Hood scenario of paying for magnificent tax breaks to the most wealthy Americans by robbing seniors and the middle class of the federal support they need. I will keep a simple principle in mind as we continue our discussions in Congress on our national budget: everyone must do their part to help America through this challenge. Fairness is what it’s all about.”

By  |  04:00 PM ET, 04/13/2011

 
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