WASHINGTON, D.C. — Minnesota’s 1st District Democratic Rep. Tim Walz heralded as a major victory President Obama’s announcement today of a pay-as-you-go rule for budgeting. A coalition of Blue Dog Democrats, who were also present at the event, hailed the move, too.
Obama, in an effort to emphasize fiscal discipline at a time when many are concerned with the massive amounts of money that the government has been spending, called on Congress today to institute strict budget rules.
“The ‘pay as you go’ rule is very simple,” Obama said today during an event at the White House. “Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere… Entitlement increases and tax cuts need to be paid for. They’re not free, and borrowing to finance them is not a sustainable long-term policy.”
“I couldn’t be happier, to tell you the truth,” Walz said in an interview after the event, adding, “This means that there is no out on this. The House either balances it, or it is done by the president.”
The federal budget deficit is estimated to approach $2 trillion in the current fiscal year, which Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently warned could cause long-term interests rates to skyrocket.
But Republicans, on Tuesday, argued that Obama’s announcement basically amounted to nothing more than a public relations strategy.
“It seems a tad disingenuous for the president and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi to talk about PAYGO rules after ramming trillions in spending through Congress,” said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., in a statement. He added: “It’s as if the Administration and these Democrat leaders are living in an alternate universe. The quickest way to save money is to stop recklessly spending it.”
On that note, Walz retorted: “Hearing Minority Whip Cantor’s [statement] was a bit like hearing Bernie Madoff lecture us on ethics.”
But, when it comes to instituting the rules, Obama could actually face more resistance from Senate Democrats than congressional Republicans.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has publicly pointed to some of the limitations of Pay Go, as well as the increased power it would give to the White House.
Obama’s proposal would require any new tax cut or entitlement program to be paid for but would provide exceptions for Social Security payments and some other programs.