House Republicans are arguing President Obama broke a promise to scour the federal budget "line by line" to look for savings.
Obama made the promise during the 2008 campaign, but House Energy and Commerce Investigations subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and committee Republicans insisted Wednesday there is no evidence that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) conducted such an exhaustive review.
Stearns also said that the $17 billion in program savings Obama's budget office found was half of that found in the Bush administration.
Congressional Research Service expert Clinton Brass said he would be “surprised” if the president would be able to take the time to read his entire budget. He testified that the administration has produced a list of programs to be terminated or reduced, but that such a list was also produced in prior administrations.
Democrats at a Wednesday hearing said Obama was speaking figuratively when he said he would conduct a line by line review.
“If this is a 'gotcha' hearing on whether the administration has actually done a line-by-line review, I reject its premise,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said. “There is no question if it has examined the budget closely ... I am afraid my colleagues have misunderstood a figure of speech.”
Republicans were irate that OMB would not send Budget Director Jack Lew to explain whether a line-by-line review was conducted. Committee ranking member Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) also said she regretted that OMB would not send anyone to testify.
Committee staff said that OMB told them Lew does not testify to subcommittees, and since there is no confirmed deputy director, there is no one available to testify.
At the hearing, Waxman said Congress should look in the mirror at its own budget failings. He pointed out that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised to do away with omnibus spending bills and is now contemplating one. He also said Congress has delegated important responsibilities to the deficit supercommittee.