Hensarling takes another shot at deficit in GOP address

The Republican lawmaker who sparred with President Barack Obama about budget deficits last weekend doubled down on his claims in this week’s Republican address.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) criticized the president’s 2011 budget unveiled on Monday, saying that it increases spending, raises taxes and does not do enough to create jobs.

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“When it comes to budget matters, I usually find myself agreeing with about 80 percent of what the President says, but I DISAGREE with 80 percent of what he does,” Hensarling said.

“The numbers in his budget are simply breathtaking: a record $3.8 trillion in spending, more than $2 trillion in new job-crushing taxes, not to mention a tripling of the national debt – on top of the largest deficit in our nation’s history,” the congressman added. “Interest payments alone on this debt will set us back roughly $6 trillion over the next decade – that’s about $50,000 per household.”

At the House Republican retreat last week Hensarling, who is the second-ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, told Obama that the yearly deficits Democrats complained about under former President George W. Bush had now become "monthly" deficits in lengthy remarks that clearly frustrated the president.

"With all due respect, I've got to take this last question as an example of how it's very hard to have the kind of bipartisan work that we're going to do. The whole question was structured as a talking point for running a campaign," Obama fired back before calling Hensarling's assertions about deficits "factually just not true."

In this week’s address, the congressman accused Obama of not answering his question at the time, but said he has now found out what he wanted to know.

“You may recall that the president declined to answer the question last week,” he said. “But he has certainly answered it this week by submitting a new budget that does just what I feared.”

When the Obama administration presented its $3.8 trillion budget on Monday, officials said it would take steps to reduce red ink while also act to create jobs, two seemingly conflicting goals.

While the budget projected a record $1.56 trillion deficit this year, President Barack Obama announced a three-year freeze on discretionary spending unrelated to national security, defense, veterans affairs and foreign operations.

At the same time, the White House wants passed a $100 billion jobs bill to help tamp down high unemployment numbers.

Hensarling echoed Republican criticism of the budget, saying it does not do enough to rein in spending.

“President Obama’s proposed spending freeze unfortunately is not really a freeze at all,” Hensarling said. “It exempts 86 percent of the federal budget from the freezer, does not turn on the freezer until next year and then turns it off shortly thereafter.”

Hensarling also hit at Obama’s proposed fiscal commission intended to address the nation’s debt.

Obama has said he would create the bipartisan commission via executive order. The Senate failed to pass the proposed statutory debt commission late last month.

Most Republicans opposed the panel out of fear that it would recommend tax increases to raise revenue and because they say it would not have the authority to make real changes.

Hensarling accused the president of “punt[ing] the problem to a ‘commission’ that does not yet exist, and whose recommendations may never see the light of day.”

Supporters of the statutory commission, though, warned that an executive commission would have virtually no authority to force Congress to adopt its recommendations.

The Texas Republican said that his party has better solutions than the Democrats do to lift the economy out of its recession. 

The Democratic National Committee issued a rebuttal to parts of Hensarling's address, accusing the congressman of making inaccurate statements.

"Hensarling's comments are misleading, loaded with political rhetoric and simply don't square with the facts," said DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse.

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In an e-mail Woodhouse hit at Hensarling's claims that the federal stimulus package had failed to live up to its job creation benchmarks, firing back that GOPers had distorted Democratic claims about the stimulus bill.

He also slammed Hensarling for saying that Obama does not yet have a plan for his fiscal commission, saying that GOP senators are the ones who helped kill it in Congress.

Woodhouse also said that GOP budget proposals, such as the one creafted by Budget committee ranking member Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), would irresponsibily force seniors out of Medicare.

Hensarling said Congress should adopt strict spending caps in order to rein in the deficit, an idea that Democrats have said is an inappropriate step while the government is trying to create jobs.

Yet, the congressman insisted that Democrats are the ones pushing the economy down a “reckless path."

“But now it’s up to Democrats in Washington to listen and change course,” he said. “Serious fiscal responsibility requires more than just tinkering around the margins.”