Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with GOP Senators on Obama’s budget


Transcript: Feb. 13, 2012 press briefing Q&A with Republican Senators on President Obama’s 2013 federal budget:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.):
“Interests this year was $230 billion. Next – and under the President’s numbers in his own chart – interest will go to $840 billion. That’s larger than defense, larger than Social Security and Medicare today. It would be the fastest growing item in the entire budget.”

“If you could just talk a little bit more about austerity versus spending and the White House argument that the greater priority now is not austerity but you’ve got to be able to keep what’s already a fragile economy and you do have to give that a shot in the arm. Does that have any – does that hold any water – that argument – for you?”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.):
“The French, Germans, Europe deciding that they’ve got their get their house in order and they defend that.

“I would just say this: If you share the view that there ought to be changes in the out years, why aren’t they in the budget?

“If you say that the immediate challenge doesn’t allow us to cut spending today, why don’t you propose something that would cut spending in the future?

“If you recognize, I think as all of us do, that Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid are programs in dire danger and need to fixed, why don’t you do it today?

“What Mr. [Ben] Bernanke said at the hearing was you should definitely look for the savings in the outer years and you shouldn’t stop at 10, you should go beyond that because that would give encouragement to the entire financial world that the United States is on a sound path. It’s rather stunning that the President does not propose that. And it would help, as several have said, the growth in our economy if we had a plan that the world would see would not lead to disaster.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.):
“Both the CBO and Chairman Bernanke said that by allowing the Bush tax cuts expire, you’re going to dramatically harm economic growth. So this President’s proposal? Increase taxes. And it will harm economic growth. So I think, you know, even though the President says he wants to grow the economy, his policies are doing the exact opposite and they are making things worse.”

“Sen. Portman? When you were budget director, President Bush’s budgets would come up here and Democrats would point out that there was no money in there for the AMT tax, there was no money for war spending, there was no money for emergency spending. They would say that those budgets were just budget gimmicks and it was dead on arrival. So why should we believe this year that this is somehow worse than what we’ve been seeing for almost a decade now?”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio):
“Well, it’s interesting because the President’s budget was taken to the floor last year and you would expect it, if you’re right, that there it becomes partisan. Democrats support, Republicans don’t that you would have had a majority of the Senate support it. And the vote was 97 to nothing. We don’t know what the vote would be on this budget but I would tell you it looks an awful lot like last year’s except I would say even more irresponsible given the fact that it does not address any of the long-term challenges. It doesn’t do anything to help save Social Security. The only thing on Medicare is a provision relatively small and means testing, which occurs after the next Presidential term. So to this point about austerity. It doesn’t make any of the tough decisions.

“So look, as I said earlier, you would expect in a political year particularly budgets to be a relatively political document but at this point as I said it’s over the line because it doesn’t have any savings. I mean when you go through the analysis of what’s actually in there, it simply does not have any impact on this long-term or short-term problem. We’re talking about a deficit this year of over $1 trillion. A deficit of next year of $900 billion plus dollars. You know, these are historic levels.”

“Do you think these gimmicks and President George W. Bush’s gimmicks are comparable?”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio):
“Well, these are gimmicks that I don’t think have been ever perceived to be appropriate to be used before.

“OCO [overseas contingency operations] for instance. To say that all of the new funding – you look at the budget, the transportation budget is paid for by assuming that we’re going to get huge savings in Iraq and Afghanistan. Everybody knows those savings are going to occur anyway. Democrats and Republicans alike here on the Hill looked at this last year as a potential budget gimmick to be used in the context of the Super Committee, to be used in the context of paying right now for payroll tax, and determined it wasn’t appropriate for those purposes. And yet, you have the President putting it out there, hundreds of billions of dollars that folks know are not real savings because the troops are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. So I think these are at a new level.

“You also have to look at what this budget does in terms of the long-term debt. Instead of actually reducing the debt, it increases it and not just by a few trillions – by somewhere between $12 trillions to $14 trillions depending on how you look at it and that’s looking at his own numbers. So the historic level of debt we’re seeing, which have an impact on today’s economy and certainly unfair to future generations, are increased dramatically to the point that the debt will be over $25 trillion 10 years from now under this budget.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.):
“We did acknowledge that the war was an emergency and it was funded entirely with borrowed money. I think – some complained – but both parties voted for that, and it was open decision.

“But with regard to the doc fix it was much smaller, and our debt wasn’t 100% of GDP as it is today and it’s growing and surging out there.

“And with regard to the war, what is the gimmick is that when you cease borrowing money to pay for the war, the President assumes that the money is still there and therefore you can spend it. But really, you’re just borrowing money to fund a new spending program. We’re not – we don’t have a source of money to pay for the war, and then the cost of the war drops, you’ve got money. You just don’t.”

“Aides on the conference for payroll tax are saying Republicans offered an unpaid for payroll tax extension. I wonder if you would elaborate on that. And then how does it square with the concerns that you are telling us today about the budget?”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.):
“There have been no meetings over the last couple of days other than between the chairman, Congressman [Dave] Camp, and Sen. [Max] Baucus, and they’ve been discussing things over the weekend. I haven’t gotten a report yet today. What I do hear today is that any proposals they seem to be having some solution, then gets taken back to Harry Reid, he says no. He seems to be trying to pull the rug out of every successful completion of this effort and seems to be a cheerleader for failure. I want to extend the payroll tax holiday. I want to extend the unemployment insurance. And I want to make sure that our seniors on Medicare can continue to see their doctors. And right now, it seems that Harry Reid is a bit of a roadblock in preventing that from happening.”

“Just a follow-up. Should that be paid for?”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.):
“We’re continuing to look for ways to pay for all parts of this and there are blocks in paying for every component of this, which I think we need to do. The Democrats are not willing to pay for those things. I want to make sure we’re looking for things that are actually paid for. The Republicans in the House have come forward with proposals in terms of pay freeze on federal workers and the number of things that have already passed the House and I support all of those. Thank you.”


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3 Comments on “Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with GOP Senators on Obama’s budget

  1. Pingback: Analysis: Obama's budget seeks to boost jobs & strengthen economic recovery | What The Folly?!

  2. Pingback: Transcript: Republican Sen. Jeff Barrasso says Obama's budget is 'debt on arrival' | What The Folly?!

  3. Pingback: Transcript: Republican Sen. Rob Portman calls Obama's budget a 'political document' | What The Folly?!

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