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Obama Takes on Budget Critics

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President Barack Obama makes remarks after meeting with Senate and House budget committee chairmen, at the White House in Washington, D.C., 17 Mar 2009
President Barack Obama makes remarks after meeting with Senate and House budget committee chairmen, at the White House in Washington, D.C., 17 Mar 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama is taking on Republican critics of his economic plan. After vowing to ease the partisan rhetoric in Washington, the president is turning up the heat.

Mr. Obama eagerly sought Republican support in Congress for his economic rescue plan. But not a single Republican voted for the package in the House of Representatives and only three voted for it in the Senate.

This time, with his budget under fire from the political opposition, the president is fighting back.

He said it is not enough for Republicans to simply oppose his ideas. He added they must come forward with proposals of their own and be willing to negotiate.

"Just say, 'No,' is the right advice to give your teenagers about drugs," said the president. "It is not an acceptable response to whatever economic policies are proposed by the other party."

Speaking after a meeting with the Democrat chairmen of the congressional budget committees, the president issued a challenge to his critics.

"With the magnitude of the challenges we face, what we need in Washington are not more political tactics," said Mr. Obama. "We need more good ideas. We do not need more point scoring; we need more problem solving."

In his brief remarks, Mr. Obama referred to his proposed $3.5 trillion budget for 2010 as a blueprint for the future. It includes substantial spending increases for health care, education and the development of alternative energy sources.

Republicans have complained that these programs are too costly at a time of economic recession. But the president said they are long term investments that must be made.

"The cost of our health care is too high to ignore," he said. "The dependence on oil is too dangerous to ignore. Our education deficit is too wide to ignore."

But Republicans immediately made clear they are in no mood to compromise on the budget.

California Republican Dan Lungren said Mr. Obama is not living up to his campaign promises to cut taxes and federal spending.

"This budget taxes too much, spends too much, borrows too much," he said. "It is, in fact, a repudiation of the very goals he has established."

Indiana Republican Mike Pence continued the criticism of the Obama budget.

"I think the more the American people look at this administration's budget, the more they know we can do better," he said. "We must do better."

Republicans have put forward a list of principles that they think should drive the 2010 budget. Party leaders say they will announce detailed proposals soon.

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