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Posted at 10:54 AM ET, 03/ 7/2011

Republicans vs. Democrats on discretionary spending

By Jennifer Rubin

On "Fox News Sunday" Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was interrogated by Chris Wallace on the budget negotiations for the remainder of the 2011 budget:

WALLACE: But several major news organizations say that talk about meeting the Republicans halfway is a phony. To get there, you claim $41 billion in cuts from President Obama's budget, which was never passed, so you're not actually cutting anything. . . . Your response?

DURBIN: Well, let me say this. We can talk about numbers, and I'm willing to, but let's get down to the bottom. The bottom line is this: If we went ahead with the House Republican budget, if we decided to cut education the way they want to cut it, take the money out of Head Start, put hundreds of thousands of poor kids out of the program, and dismiss 10 or 20,000 teachers and staff; if we want to cut the Pell grants and force young people from families of limited means to leave college; if we want to cut research, medical research at the National Institutes of Health, which is what they propose; and if we want to cut one-third of the staff at the Oregon National Laboratory and the laboratories around the United States; if we want to cut the infrastructure project, putting people to work ...

WALLACE: Senator, I think we -- I think we get the idea. You don't like their cuts. And ...

DURBIN: Let me finish this, Chris. Chris.

WALLACE: And if you may -- if I may, I'm going to ask Congressman Hensarling about it, but I want to ask you about your own actions.

Because in fact, Democrats are proposing -- and let's put it up on the screen -- $10.5 billion in real cuts from current spending. That's from total spending of $3.7 trillion. Senator Durbin, that represents a cut of .28 percent. That's less than one-third of 1 percent. Is that really the best the Democrats can do?

DURBIN: Chris -- Chris, if I could finish my answer.

WALLACE: I ask you, is .28 percent the best the Democrats can do?

DURBIN: The House Republican budget ...

WALLACE: I'm asking you about your spending cuts.

DURBIN: Chris, may I answer?

WALLACE: Yes, I'm asking you -- I'm asking you to answer my question, which is, is that the best Democrats can do?

DURBIN: I'm going to finish one way or the other here, Chris. The House Republican budget takes all of its cuts out of 12 percent of our budget. Jeb Hensarling and I sat on the commission, an honest commission that said we need to put everything on the table. You can't balance the budget of America by cutting education, research and innovation, and basic...

WALLACE: Are you willing to accept more cuts in discretionary spending, sir?

DURBIN: It can't be done. What I'm saying is: If you believe that you're going to balance the budget by cutting just 12 percent of the budget down to balance, it is literally, figuratively impossible. If you want the bragging rights for who can cut the most out of education, I'm...

Well, there you have it. After running up discretionary spending 24 percent in two years there's not a penny more of savings to be had, if you believe Durbin.

Now Durbin is right insofar as the discretionary budget is a small part of our overall fiscal train wreck. But the debt commission's report that Durbin voted in favor of found plenty more to cut. Among the commission's recommendations:

Enact tough discretionary spending caps to force budget discipline in Congress. Include enforcement mechanisms to give the limits real teeth. Make significant cuts in both security and non-security spending by cutting low-priority programs and streamlining government operations. Offer over $50 billion in immediate cuts to lead by example, and provide $200 billion in illustrative 2015 savings.

I suppose Durbin favors such measures only in the abstract.

Republicans find Durbin's recalcitrance illuminating. A senior Senate aide told me Sunday, "That sure seems to put the lie to the Democrat position that they're willing to find a bipartisan compromise. Hell, even the president says he's open to further cuts."

Michael Steel, spokesman for Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), had this reaction to Durbin's comments: "Once again a senior Democrat has admitted the truth: They want to keep their out-of-control spending binge going. But that status quo just isn't acceptable to the American people."

And remember that Durbin's defense of that status quo comes after a General Accountability Office report highlighted hundreds of billions in duplication and waste.

Not surprisingly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on "Face the Nation" took issue with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who also voiced resistance to any more cuts. McConnell argued, "Look, this is the time to get serious. The administration with regard to this year's negotiation that we're talking about, that Senator Kerry called reckless, has only come about one-sixth of the way to where House Republicans are, and where I am the majority and hopefully all Senate Republicans are."

There couldn't be a more vivid contrast. Democrats are banking that voters are as unserious as they are in addressing our fiscal predicament. Republicans are equally certain the voters are worried about the rising tide of debt. For now, there is reason to doubt that, short of a change in control of the Senate and the White House, much serious debt control can be accomplished.

By Jennifer Rubin  | March 7, 2011; 10:54 AM ET
Categories:  Budget  | Tags:  Jennifer Rubin  
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Comments

"O'Neill said he tried to warn Vice President Dick Cheney that growing budget deficits-expected to top $500 billion this fiscal year alone-posed a threat to the economy. Cheney cut him off. "You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter," he said, according to excerpts. Cheney continued: "We won the midterms (congressional elections). This is our due." A month later, Cheney told the Treasury secretary he was fired."

If Reagan proved deficits don't matter, why are we still hearing this crap about deficits?

Posted by: member8 | March 7, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

member8,

I don't think you will find too many fiscal conservatives who will argue that the George W. Bush administration really excelled in economics. They were big government spenders - just not to the degree of the current Obama administration. While some credit the birth of the Tea Party with Rick Santelli's housing rant, I think that the seeds were sown much earlier.

I watched Durbin yesterday, and he is just pathetic. I was kind of upset with Chris Wallace as well; he should've asked him about the GAO report, or if Durbin saw the movie "Waiting for Superman."

Posted by: coffeetime | March 7, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

For 2 years 2006 to 2008 Tricky Dickie Durbin complained about Guantanamo Bay being a gulag and it needed to be closed. He also complained about the patriot act and many other Bush tactics against terrorism. The same Policies the current administration has continued. Weather or not if you thihk these policies are correct or not, we know where Dickie Durban stood on these policies His silence now is hypocritical and proves he is nothing but a bias party hack. His worthless interview and his refusing to answer the questions just shows his cowardness and ineptitude. As an American I am embarrassed he is a senator, my senator

Posted by: eddiehaskall | March 7, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

David Frum has something interesting:

".... constrained by politics and by economic popularizers who rejected not only John Maynard Keynes, but also Milton Friedman, Republicans have for two years coalesced around a program that might be described as: “No soup for you.”

* No action on job creation at all beyond the renewal of the Bush tax cuts that were in place when the economy collapsed and that obviously did nothing to prevent the collapse
* Calls for tighter monetary policy
* Rhetorical commitment to budget-balancing
* Symbolic and immediate budget cuts combined with grand but unrealistic pledges of radical entitlement reform starting … just over the horizon and affecting only the generations that do not vote Republican.

Ronald Reagan cut taxes to get the US economy moving again, but today’s GOP wouldn’t even advocate that. Instead, it has offered Americans a set of policies simultaneously aggressive and also weak, uncompassionate and also ineffective, austere and also useless.

How can it be that the country’s great party of opposition fails to produce productive policy alternatives for years and years?

How did we allow the rage of political opposition to freeze our concern for fellow citizens in distress?"

(I'm going to have to question his last comment there - I've known Republicans all my life and utter lack of concern for people in distress is to them the proudest part of being conservative. It permits them both to stand in judgment of their moral inferiors, whose bad life choices obviously caused them to become distressed, and inhabit the toughness of ignoring pleas for help, which only liberals are weak enough to fall for. (Unless those pleas come from Goldman, in which case they're smothered with federal bailout dollars))

Posted by: member8 | March 7, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

"I've known Republicans all my life and utter lack of concern for people in distress is to them the proudest part of being conservative."

member8, with all due respect, you need to get out more. Some liberals fancy themselves above the frey from sweeping generalizations and prejudices: witness their reaction whenever an act of terror takes place and their reluctance to place the blame on "Islamic radicals," even when the evidence is as plain as the nose on your face. However, mingle with few bad apples who claim to be (or are) Republican, and it's time to paint all Republicans with as wide a brush as you can find.

Posted by: coffeetime | March 7, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

member8 -

I suggest that you broaden your horizons and get to know more conservatives, you’ll be better off for it.

Conservatives generally focus on individuals and individual action, not groups or group action as liberals / statists do. The latter solution to most problems is a government program or government-imposed regulation at the national level, while right-wing knuckle-draggers prefer voluntary action at the lowest possible level, preferably the personal level. And their behavior shows it.

In the 2004 election, “28 of the 29 "most generous" states are Red States that voted for President Bush (including all 25 of the "most generous" states), while 17 of the 21 "least generous" states are Blue States that voted for Senator Kerry (including all 7 of the "least generous" states)”.
http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2005/11/generosity_inde.html

Chew too on this:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/03/conservatives_more_liberal_giv.html
// -- Although liberal families' incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).
-- Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.
-- People who reject the idea that "government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality" give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition. //

There’s more at the link.

Nothing personal, but the remarks in your last paragraph are the most spiteful I've seen on this blog.

Posted by: SCMike1 | March 7, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

DURBIN: Well, let me say this.

Stall trick, let's them get their thoughts together....

if we decided to cut education the way they want to cut it, take the money out of Head Start, put hundreds of thousands of poor kids out of the program,

failure, doesn't work - we have remedial courses in college.....and a study or 2 showing it doesn't work....

and dismiss 10 or 20,000 teachers and staff;

10-20K teachers & staff out of how many across this country?

Staff? Don't a lot of teachers complain there r too many administrators?


if we want to cut the Pell grants and force young people from families of limited means to leave college;

they're going to leave every single college and not be able to get in somewhere cheaper? TX is going to put together a $10L biz degree. What about going online? Does the taxpayer have a responsibility to send the kid to the college he/she wants and maybe even put that kid tens or hundreds of thousands in debt?

if we want to cut research, medical research at the National Institutes of Health, which is what they propose;

which research? embryo research is ultimately a failure, very little bang 4 our buck - adult stem cells is where it's really at -


nd if we want to cut one-third of the staff at the Oregon National Laboratory and the laboratories around the United States;

What projects r they working on?

if we want to cut the infrastructure project, putting people to work ...

Hello, Stimulus....they're not working now!

Posted by: gopthestupidparty | March 7, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Maybe those teachers who r on admin leave or make work cos they can't be fired should be counted? LA Times had an article about how much they're costing that school system, just a thought.

Posted by: gopthestupidparty | March 7, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

SCMike, instead of an ad hominem attack on my remarks (which I stand by - I call them like I see them), perhaps you could address Mr. Frum's question; "How did we allow the rage of political opposition to freeze our concern for fellow citizens in distress?"

and

"... today’s GOP ... has offered Americans a set of policies simultaneously aggressive and also weak, uncompassionate and also ineffective, austere and also useless."

Posted by: member8 | March 7, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

has offered Americans a set of policies simultaneously aggressive and also weak, uncompassionate and also ineffective, austere and also useless."


We R Broke - we haven't even begun to get austere.

Which policies? How will they be ineffective? Useless? Uncompassionate?

Posted by: gopthestupidparty | March 7, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

During the breakfast meeting with the Democratic Caucus the Veep asked Durbin to scat him a tune to augment the Senator's spot-on impersonation of the late great Mel Torme.

Posted by: aardunza | March 7, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

gop... OK, we'll put you down as not paying attention in class. Perhaps someone who is familiar with the budget negotiations finer points might want to way in.

Posted by: member8 | March 7, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

gop... OK, we'll put you down as not paying attention in class. Perhaps someone who is familiar with the budget negotiations finer points might want to way in.


Why isn't that U? Don't U know?

Posted by: gopthestupidparty | March 7, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Symbolic and immediate budget cuts combined with grand but unrealistic pledges of radical entitlement reform starting … just over the horizon and affecting only the generations that do not vote Republican.

LOLOLOL - how quickly he forgets the 80s.

Posted by: gopthestupidparty | March 7, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

You gotta love the Dem's latest tactic - taunting the GOP to "meet us halfway" on budget cuts. You mean like how the Dems met the GOP halfway on Obamacare and the so-called $787B "stimulus" (which I understand had a higher total cost)?

Stand your ground, Repubs, and trust the mandate that put so many of you into office at the federal, state and local levels. If that means shutting down government, well, as Jean Luc-Picard would say, "Make it so."

Posted by: coffeetime | March 7, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

member8 pulls out the whole Cheney quote for a change and proceeds to demonstrate his sheer incompetence at reading comprehension. Cheney said: "We won the midterms (congressional elections". That implies the deficits didn't matter for those elections. Now, they matter fr these elections. Tell you what, member8. You run on "deficits don't matter" and I will run on "deficits matter". Who do you think will win in 2012? Hint: it won't be you.

Posted by: RickCaird | March 7, 2011 5:06 PM | Report abuse

If Head Start was such a resounding success, why the need for NCLB?

Y r we falling behind?

Posted by: gopthestupidparty | March 7, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

member8 –

My response was substantive, providing data through links to counter your anecdotal smear, and you’ve not chosen to address the substance. I understand that you take offense at my last sentence; that was the intended effect.

I’ll humor you with a response to Frum’s: The difficult task of cutting spending demonstrates our concern for fellow citizens and the crushing debt they and theirs face; failure to act now will further limit their economic and personal freedom. If, as Frum writes, the GOP’s policies are truly weak, ineffective, and useless, why are his undies in such a bunch, for the policies will have no discernable effect, no?

Frum’s day as a speechwriter have passed. He’s no political philosopher nor economic wunderkind,, so we can pay little heed to his missives.

Posted by: SCMike1 | March 7, 2011 7:26 PM | Report abuse

SCMike1: "Frum writes, the GOP’s policies are truly weak, ineffective, and useless, why are his undies in such a bunch, for the policies will have no discernable effect, no?"

I feel your pain, and confusion. You might look to this sentence for the answer:

"How can it be that the country’s great party of opposition fails to produce productive policy alternatives for years and years?"

Looks to me like Frum is fretting the fact that there is no coherent story coming from the Republican party on how they intend to create jobs, and that having a party platform that consists of nothing more than defunding NPR and home heating assistance isn't good policy, nor good politics.

As a Republican he might not be happy about the fact that his party is broken.

But hey, what do I know, what with my reading comprehension deficiencies and whatnot.

Posted by: member8 | March 7, 2011 8:24 PM | Report abuse

RickCaird, with all due respect to your reading comprehension prowess, Cheney was warned by the Treasury Secretary that the deficit posed a threat to the economy, to which Cheney replied "Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

He wasn't giving that answer to Karl Rove after being told that the deficit threatened an election. He gave it to the Treasury Secretary after being told it threatened the economy.

His answer: "Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

Who am I to argue with such expert judgement?

Posted by: member8 | March 7, 2011 8:30 PM | Report abuse

@member8

As I pointed out to you when you used the whole Cheney quote, Cheney was talking about deficits as an election issue. He was right then. But, it is a different time now, Do you realize Obama's February deficit was larger than Bush's total deficit in 2007.

Do you really believe deficits will not matter in the 2012 election? I don't. However, I would love it if you could get Obama to campaign on a "deficits don't matter" campaign.

Posted by: RickCaird | March 7, 2011 9:30 PM | Report abuse

member8 –

I’ll stop feeding the trolls after this: Paul Ryan has put out a roadmap, the GOP in the short term need only stop further outrageous spending during the balance of FY 11, and then, with FY 12, begin the tough task of making sense of entitlements.

Frum wrongly focuses on tone, which is not a problem, while ignoring the meat, which is the deficit and debt. There’s a move afoot internationally to short the dollar, and that will make today’s deficit and debt projections look foolish as the accumulating interest payments skyrocket. According to the Business Insider, we face a catastrophe of Beckian proportions! What could be worse than proving Glenn Beck correct?

We live in interesting times and we need to act boldly to retain control of our destiny. My great regret is that the Obami don’t act as seriously as the times and circumstances dictate. That crew simply does not understand the psychology of markets and international relations; their Chicago experience has left them woefully unprepared for real life.

Posted by: SCMike1 | March 7, 2011 10:46 PM | Report abuse

SCMike1, Paul Ryan's roadmap, I believe, is nonspecific, except that it calls for balancing the budget sometime in the 2060's after adding around 63 trillion in new debt. Profile in courage.

If the dollar is unsound, the bond markets are not showing it.

"The U.S. today is able to borrow at historically low interest rates, paying 0.68 percent on a two-year note that it had to offer at 5.1 percent before the financial crisis began in 2007. Financial products that pay off if Uncle Sam defaults aren't attracting unusual investor demand. And tax revenue as a percentage of the economy is at a 60-year low, meaning if the government needs to raise cash and can summon the political will, it could do so...

Financial markets dispute the political world's conclusion. The cost of insuring for five years a notional $10 million in U.S. government debt is $45,830, less than half the cost in February 2009, at the height of the financial crisis, according to data provider CMA data. That makes U.S. government debt the fifth safest of 156 countries rated and less likely to suffer default than any major economy, including every member of the G20...."

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-07/bonds-show-why-boehner-saying-we-re-broke-is-figure-of-speech.html

So bottom line, you and Glenn Beck have not convinced me.

Posted by: member8 | March 7, 2011 10:58 PM | Report abuse

STOCKS DIVE, SILVER SURGES, TECH HAMMERED: Here's What You Need To Know

http://www.businessinsider.com/closing-bell-march-7-2011-3

I hate it when silver surges..

Posted by: SCMike1 | March 7, 2011 11:40 PM | Report abuse

If you define terms that don't allow for rational response, you can create any argument you want, Ms. Rubin.

Our economy has crashed, and is recuperating only slowly. Instead of increasing revenue by increasing taxes at all, the GOP insisted on a further tax cut. And now it seeks to create savings out of the tenth or so of our budget that actually tries to meet needs that have been sorely exacerbated by the recession.

Every rational and thoughtful analysis of our budget woes has begun with the premise that we must cut rationally from 100% of the budget -- defense, social security and medicate as well as education and infrastructure -- AND we must increase taxes.

Most economists are now on record saying that such moves should not be taken, however, until the government has increased its spending enough to assure that our recovery is secure.

The GOP approach would not only fail to balance the budget, it seems guaranteed to bankrupt the country.

Posted by: thmas | March 7, 2011 11:46 PM | Report abuse

AND we must increase taxes.


Already started, what R U paying for a gallon of gas? Bamster wanted to add another 25 c on in his budget & really really wants to get rid of what r now the Obama tax cuts.

Posted by: gopthestupidparty | March 8, 2011 9:01 AM | Report abuse

And forgot the food increases as well.

Posted by: gopthestupidparty | March 8, 2011 9:02 AM | Report abuse

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