Chris Van Hollen: Republicans 'opportunistic' in criticizing Obama budget proposal
Pushing back Tuesday against GOP criticism of President Obama's 2012 budget plan, House Democratic leaders said that many Republicans taking aim at the president for not heeding the advice of his bipartisan deficit commission had earlier opposed the panel's creation as well as some of its recommendations.
Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, described Obama's proposal as "a tough love budget" and slammed Republicans who have criticized the president for not following the deficit commission's advice.
"I think it's at least a little bit opportunistic for Republicans who opposed the formation of the bipartisan deficit and debt reduction commission -- and then when every Republican in the House voted against it -- to be criticizing the president for not including more of the recommendations that they themselves voted against," Van Hollen said ahead of House Democrats' closed-door caucus meeting.
Van Hollen was referring to the three House Republicans on the deficit commission who voted last year against the panel's plan that would trim the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade.
Two of the three House Democrats on the panel also voted against its recommendations, including one of Van Hollen's colleagues in House Democratic leadership, Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).
Asked whether the House is likely to tackle entitlement reform this year, as House Republican leaders have indicated, Van Hollen reiterated Obama's statement stressing the need for a "bipartisan solution" but declined to offer any specifics.
"The president indicated both in his State of the Union address as well as in the statement that came with his budget that he looks forward to sitting down with Republicans and Democrats, the White House and the Congress to look at many of the longer-term issues including tax reform, including some of the issues, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, but looking at them in a way that strengthens those programs moving forward," he said.
Becerra said that House Democrats have "begun the process and we're willing to have that conversation on a bipartisan basis with our colleagues," noting that the national health care overhaul passed by Congress last year included Medicare reforms that will result in $500 billion savings over the next decade.
Meanwhile, Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro, co-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, argued that lowering overall health-care costs is the key to bringing down the expense of entitlement programs. She cautioned against considering Social Security changes as part of any deficit reduction plan.
"If you want to decreases costs in Medicare and Medicaid, it's about health-care costs coming down," DeLauro said. "We began that process in a very formidable way, and we will continue with that. I would just say that we need to make Social Security stronger; we need to protect benefits. Social Security should not be for deficit reduction."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters on Monday that House Republicans plan to include entitlement reform as part of their proposed fiscal year 2012 budget in April.
| February 15, 2011; 10:46 AM ET
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