GOP To Obama On Entitlement Reform: No Seriously, You Go First

By Kristina

Feb 15, 2011 3:43pm

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports: Hours after President Obama argued that the issue of entitlement reform “is not a matter of ‘you go first’ or ‘I go first,’” Senate Republicans today said that is precisely the crux of the matter.

“This is a matter of everybody having a serious conversation about where we want to go and then ultimately getting in that boat at the same time so it doesn't tip over. And I think that can happen,” said President Obama.

But if the president wants to tackle entitlement reforms, the GOP stated time and time again, then he may need to lead the way.

“With regard to our long-term unfunded liabilities – the entitlements – we are waiting for presidential leadership,” the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell said. “We know and we’ll say again that entitlement reform will not be done except on a bipartisan basis with presidential leadership.”

A string of McConnell’s fellow GOP senators then echoed that statement, denouncing the president’s budget as a failure to take the lead.

“The one person who can make a difference is the president and there are plenty of us on both sides of the aisle who are ready to work with him when he steps forward,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, said.

“If you look at this budget unfortunately it does not provide the type of leadership that we desperately need,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH, who directed the Office of Management & Budget under President George W. Bush.

In case anyone missed the point, McConnell reiterated it again.

“I’ve been inviting the president to have that conversation since he took office two years ago. It doesn’t have to be in public. We all understand there’s some limitations to negotiating significant agreements in public,” he said. “But we’re still waiting for the president to lead. The one thing I can tell you at the risk of being redundant is there will be no entitlement reform without presidential leadership.”  

That wasn’t just the message at the GOP’s weekly press conference at the Capitol – it was a message that was echoing all around the Hill this afternoon.

At a Senate Budget Committee hearing with OMB director Jack Lew, Sen. John Ensign, R-NV, virtually pleaded with the budget director for the administration to take the lead.

“Republicans are standing ready for the President’s leadership, I hope you take that message back to him, but we can’t do it alone,” Ensign said.

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