Obama Spending Freeze Lands on Hill with Thud

By Matt Loffman

Jan 26, 2010 2:26pm

ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports: The president’s proposed discretionary spending freeze has hit Capitol Hill with a thud.   House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said, simply, that she looks forward to “examining the details” of the proposed freeze. And Democratic senators, especially liberals and committee chairmen, have been astonishingly direct in hammering the idea as unwise (because of the need for more economic stimulus) and unfair (because it exempts Defense spending). Here’s a sampling of what some lawmakers are saying: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA):  “Why exclude Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans’ Affairs?  Don’t tell me there’s not waste in those programs – a lot of waste.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT):  “At a time when people are going hungry and our educational system is crumbling, do we want to cut back or freeze these programs?  No.”
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee:  “As much as I want to support the president, I have doubts.” Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT):  “I worry about symbolism.  They talked about a balanced budget amendment under Reagan and tripled the deficit.  Sometimes you need more than symbolism.” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH):  “I am concerned that the people who are most hurting in the country will be hurt by this.” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD):  “I think Defense spending needs to be controlled too.” Sen. John Kerry (D-MA):  Said he likes the idea, but worries that a freeze “prevents you from doing what needs to be done,” in areas such as job creation and energy. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA):  “It’s hard to implement … The devil is in the details.” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI):  “My first priority is creating jobs.  I don’t want a spending freeze on anything that is focused on jobs.” Supporters of the idea seem to be limited to a group of moderates, Republicans and Democrats up for re-election: Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN):  “It’s absolutely the right thing to do.”  Bayh says he was “pleasantly surprised” by the proposal. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA):  “It seems like it makes sense.  He’s not playing games here.  He’s being honest.” Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE):  “Good start. It sends the right message, perhaps it will catch on.” Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND):  “This could be done.  It would make a modest contribution toward dealing with our deficit problem.” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO):  “I think it is terrific.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC):  “I am glad he is willing to embrace spending controls of any kind …. [but] … It’s a drop in the bucket. … It’s a little gimmick, but it’s better than nothing.”

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