Coburn: Obama has set bipartisanship on debt 'three steps backwards'

A key Republican senator working to forge a bipartisan deficit-reduction compromise said President Obama is injuring that effort by making a partisan speech on the debt this week.

Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), delivering the weekly Republican address, said Obama took America “three steps backwards” in dealing with the debt by making a speech filled with attacks on Republicans.

“Instead of describing the threat and bringing both sides together, the president attacked those who have a different vision of the government,” Coburn said.

Coburn has been working as part of the Gang of Six senators who are trying to put most of the president’s fiscal commission report into law. He is considered very friendly in on a personal level with the president.

The fiscal commission plan attracted Coburn’s support because it lowered tax rates and reformed Social Security, items Obama did not support in his new debt plan unveiled Wednesday. Obama called for less deficit reduction, looser spending restraint and more tax increases than did the fiscal commission.

Obama also attacked House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for his budget’s reforms to Medicare, which would transform it to a type of voucher system.

Coburn went on to say Obama had failed to deliver a concrete debt plan.

“Unfortunately, the president failed to put a serious proposal on the table,” he said.

He said that Obama’s plan to rein in Medicare is to empower a board of “unaccountable Medical Czars,” and the “debt fail-safe” trigger he outlined is too weak since it exempts spending on entitlements.

Obama’s planned trigger would force spending cuts if debt in a given year after 2014 were not declining relative to GDP. Republicans prefer hard caps on discretionary spending.

Coburn has taken flak from conservatives for supporting the fiscal commission’s tax reform, which would lower rates and raise revenue by eliminating tax earmarks.

“On the issue of tax reform, the president walked away from serious bipartisan compromise on tax reform reached by his very own deficit commission on which I served. Our blueprint lowered tax rates for everyone, and reduced the deficit by stimulating real economic growth. The president’s plan undermines our bipartisan agreement by calling for rate increases that will slow the economic growth that he so much wants,” he said.

Coburn acknowledged the problems his effort at bipartisanship have caused him politically and urged both sides to come together. 

“As someone who has spent most of my 63 years outside of politics, I know there isn’t a problem we can’t solve if we do it together. But the only way we can solve them is to put our political careers on the line and stop engaging in petty political attacks,” he said.