Black Caucus Chair: Obama Budget Doesn’t Match Obama Values

Feb 17, 2011 1:17pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

For all the heat President Obama has taken for not cutting enough in his budget proposal, the president is facing severe criticism from the left for proposed cuts that target education, housing, and programs that serve the poor.

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told us that he thinks the president would oppose his own budget if he wasn’t president, since it targets programs he fought for before he arrived in the White House.

“As a former community organizer I can tell you that President Barack Obama did not want to cut Community Development Block Grants,” said Cleaver, D-Mo.

“If he were a community organizer today and we had John Doe in the White House, he would be saying the same thing I’m saying, that we shouldn’t be cutting there. But he’s in the White House and he’s trying to make sure, I think, that the other side doesn’t criticize him for just making cuts in areas that Democrats can forgive.”

Cleaver sought to downplay his caucus’ break with the president, pointing out that as opposed as his colleagues are to the president’s budget, they are saving their sharpest words for Republican proposals that cut even deeper – and faster.

“We weren’t rough on the president — we were rough on the budget,” Cleaver said. “We understand that the president has been put in an awkward spot. And the president realized that he had to make cuts across the board, so that he wouldn’t be accused of trying to reduce cuts in areas that were supported heavily by his base.

“So he cut the Community Development Block Grant, the LIHEAP program that puts fuel costs away from the poorest people. And we have to disagree with those proposals. But disagreement shouldn’t be interpreted as disaffection. … The president’s budget is not something that I would like to approve, but it’s dramatically better than what we’ve seen with the CR” – a reference to the GOP spending proposal now being debated in the House.

Before targeting programs like housing and development grants, Cleaver said the government should target Defense spending.

Meanwhile, the president’s proposals would have a real impact on those who are hurting, Cleaver said.

“When you think about the fact that the people that are suffering are not just lazy, shiftless people who want to live off the public dough — these are firefighters and teachers and government workers  who have been laid off through no fault of their own, and they’re having a difficult time. We’re in the middle of a recession and the only people pumping money into the economy is the federal government.”

Watch the interview with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver HERE.

Also today, we chatted with New York Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse, about some recent setbacks suffered on the House floor by Speaker John Boehner – lost votes that Boehner himself told Hulse that he doesn’t mind losing. 

And we also had some fun with Jon Stewart’s ribbing of Jon Karl’s deficit demonstration from ABC’s “World News” earlier this week – with some guessing as to what Stewart’s staff on The Daily Show thinks in private moments.

Watch the second portion of today’s “Top Line” HERE.

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