"Another broken Obama campaign promise," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., (@SenJohnMcCain) tweeted this morning, providing a link to a Real Clear Politics story and video indicating that "No less than four times during the presidential debates did President Obama actively campaign against an across the board spending freeze."
McCain in fact proposed a spending freeze not dissimilar to the one President Obama's advisers rolled out yesterday, saying he would exempt the Veterans Administration, Pentagon, and entitlements from the freeze.
But there is a key difference. Senior administration officials say the freeze they're proposing wouldn't be an across the board freeze on every program — some spending would go up, other programs and agencies would be frozen or experience cuts. It would be an overall freeze on the totality of the discretionary non-security budgets from 2011 through 2013.
In the first presidential debate, then-Sen. Obama said in response to Sen. McCain's freeze proposal, "the problem with a spending freeze is you're using a hatchet where you need a scalpel. There are some programs that are very important that are currently underfunded."
In the second debate he said an "across-the-board freeze" is "an example of an unfair burden-sharing. That's using a hatchet to cut the federal budget. I want to use a scalpel so people who need help are getting help and those of us like myself and Senator McCain who don't need help aren't getting it. That's how we make sure that everybody is willing to make a few sacrifices."
The White House will argue their proposal is a scalpel.
From the other side of the political spectrum, Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman blogs that the proposed freeze is "appalling on every level," "bad long-run fiscal policy, shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead," and "a betrayal of everything Obama’s supporters thought they were working for. Just like that, Obama has embraced and validated the Republican world-view — and more specifically, he has embraced the policy ideas of the man he defeated in 2008."