Moments before a conference call with reporters was scheduled to get underway on Tuesday morning, apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line, Charles Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, began to instruct fellow senators on how to talk to reporters about the contentious budget process.
After thanking his colleagues — Barbara Boxer of California, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Tom Carper of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — for doing the budget bidding for the Senate Democrats, who are facing off against the House Republicans over how spending for the rest of the fiscal year, Mr. Schumer told them to portray John Boehner of Ohio, the Speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme. “I always use the word extreme,” Mr. Schumer said, “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”
A minute or two into the talking-points tutorial, though, someone apparently figured out that reporters were listening, and silence fell.
Yes, we know these calls are not exactly spontaneous sessions, but it does undercut the Democrats’ talking point that it’s the Republicans who are playing games.
It’s not surprising, then, that the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is hot under the collar. He put out a press release, which reads in part:
“Government funding is set to expire next week on April 8th. So we have yet another deadline hanging over our heads because Democrat leaders aren’t willing to meaningfully reduce our bloated federal budget.
We hear from them all the time that the sky will fall if we trim just $61 billion from a $3.7 trillion budget. Well, the American people are not buying it. They’ve seen the overspending of the past two years and know that it failed to produce what it promised. Instead, all that has been achieved through this massive surge in federal spending is a crushing debt burden that weakens our economy and threatens our future.
Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles — co-chairs of the president’s own fiscal commission — warned that if the United States fails to act it faces “the most predictable economic crisis in its history.” And they said that such a crisis could arrive in as soon as one or two years. . . .
The president and his budget director have instead falsely boasted to the American people that under their budget we will “live within our means” and “not add more to the debt,” and that “we’re not going to spend any more money than we’re taking in.”
Not one of these claims is true. In fact, the CBO finds that over the next decade, our annual deficits will never once fall below $748 billion dollars. And they climb to $1.2 trillion in the tenth year. . . .
The president has even nominated a deputy budget director, Heather Higginbottom, who has no budget experience and who attempted to defend these claims before the Budget Committee. Who knows — perhaps the administration was not able to find someone with greater qualifications who was willing to defend these positions. . . .
I might remind the Leader that every Republican Senator either voted for $61 billion in cuts or called for greater action. There is essentially unanimous Republican agreement that we ought to cut $61 billion or more from this year’s discretionary budget. By contrast, the Majority Leader lost nearly 1/5 of his caucus on the Democrat proposal to basically do nothing. Democrats who broke ranks called for greater action. So it’s clear where the momentum lies.
We shouldn’t split the baby, or meet halfway.
We are living in a fantasy world if we don’t think we can cut $61 billion from this budget. Our non-defense discretionary spending has swelled 24 percent since the president took office.
Taking this first step in the right direction would begin to immediately restore confidence in our economy. And it would save $862 billion over the next ten years. . . .
But the question remains, do Democrats really imagine they won’t be blamed for a government shutdown? And does Obama, who has participated not at all in these talks and who designated an absentee room monitor (Joe Biden), think his do-nothing stance is going to fly? I guess we’ll find out next week.