President Obama’s deficit-reduction roadmap, a response to the House Republicans’ long-term budget plan, was met immediately with support from his fellow Democrats — and derision from Republicans.
A group of House Republicans, who were part of the president’s fiscal commission last year and who were invited to attend the speech Wednesday, lashed out at what they heard in the plan, categorizing it as not serious and a partisan approach focused on raising taxes.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the House Budget Committee Chairman, said his excitement at being invited to the speech turned to disappointment by what he described as its excessively partisan and dramatically inaccurate content.
“What we heard today was not fiscal leadership from our commander-in-chief; we heard a political broadside from our campaigner-in-chief,” Ryan said.
Obama levied plenty of criticism at Ryan during the speech, calling his recently unveiled plan to deal with government finances an approach that would deny care to the elderly in order to afford tax breaks for the wealthy.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., said the Obama approach represented price controls and rationing for seniors, and that the speech was just an attack on the Ryan plan.
“I missed lunch for this?” Hensarling joked.
Their colleague, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich, said the president’s rhetoric was unnecessarily partisan and that approach made it harder to work together.
The group’s strong reaction, and attempt to paint Obama’s plan as focused solely on raising taxes, highlights just how contentious any fight over how to shape fiscal reform will become. And the reaction from another prominent Republican highlighted how difficult it will be for President Obama to enact any plan that includes tax increases with any help from Republicans.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., is one of a group of senators called the “gang of six” that is working on its own fiscal reform plan. He offered qualified support to what Mr. Obama offered.
“I hope the president is serious about now engaging in this process. We will carry on working hard as a group to deliver a plan to lower the deficit and retire the debt, and will listen to good ideas from all sectors. I was disappointed to hear the president advocate for tax increases. I will continue to advocate for tax reform that lowers individual and corporate rates,” Chambliss said in a statement.
Other Republican senators were less charitable. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Obama’s plan amounted to little more than tax increases, while Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said that President Obama should unveil a new proposal with more details.
Naturally, the president’s plan fared better his side of the aisle. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s reaction highlighted that Democrats were eager to show voters that the Ryan plan reduces the deficit by transforming Medicare into a voucher system — a point President Obama emphasized in his speech.
“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,” Reid said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer also offered statements of strong support that also tried to highlight contrasts between Ryan’s voucher plan and President Obama’s less specific Medicare cost reduction scheme, an indication that President Obama appealed to his base in the Democratic Party with this round of the fiscal fight.