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NY Times: Miller, Dems comment on last-minutebudget deal

Aoril 9, 2011

New York Times

April 9, 2011, 10:33 am

Some Democrats Complain About Budget Compromise

1:59 p.m. | Updated President Obama hailed the late-night budget deal that averted a government shutdown on Friday as “good news for the American people,” but members of his own party seemed less convinced.

Hours after the spending crisis was averted with a series of handshakes just before midnight, some Democrats began complaining that their legislative leaders and Mr. Obama had given away too much in the bargain.

Robert Reich, the former labor secretary under President Bill Clinton, wrote on Twitter: “The right held the U.S. govt hostage, and O paid most of the ransom — inviting more hostage-taking. Next is raising debt ceiling.”

David Plouffe, a senior adviser to the president, dismissed the criticism.

“I would ask Robert Reich and others to actually consume the details of this,” Mr. Plouffe said in an interview on Saturday. “There are some in our country who simply believe spending cuts are not required to help the economy. The president has made it very clear that we cannot stay on this fiscal trajectory.”


Representative George Miller of California, a veteran liberal member of Congress, posted an early-morning statement expressing “concerns” about the compromise.

“The American people have been told the agreement contains both ‘historic’ and ‘painful’ cuts. The question will be painful for whom,” Mr. Miller wrote. “Poor and middle class families have already received more than their fair share of pain in this economy while the wealthy and special interests have paid no price.”

Mr. Miller added, “And whatever pain is in this agreement announced tonight, the Republicans’ FY2012 budget that ends the guarantee of Medicare promises more unbalanced pain on the way.”

Representative Anthony D. Weiner of New York, an outspoken critic of Mr. Obama’s agreement last year to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, wrote on Twitter: “This feels an awful lot like the tax cut deal. I gotta bad feeling.”

He tweeted a few minutes later: “Our fights can’t be just to stop their horrible ideas. Don’t we need to have our own agenda?”

Some Democrats appeared willing to reserve judgment. In a less-than-effusive statement after the agreement, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi commended Mr. Obama and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, for their “leadership and perseverance to keep the government open.”

But she added: “House Democrats look forward to reviewing the components of the final funding measure. The American people’s top priority is creating jobs, and we will continue to measure every proposal by whether it creates jobs, strengthens the middle class and responsibly reduces the deficit.”

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Mr. Obama acknowledged that the budget agreement was not everything he wanted.

“Like any compromise, this required everyone to give ground on issues that were important to them,” Mr. Obama said. “I certainly did. Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful — programs people rely on will be cut back; needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances.”

But his aides said that when the details were more fully known, it would become clear that Democrats did not give up as much as they think. One top aide familiar with the negotiations said that the overall amount of cuts — close to $39 billion lower than current budget levels — was less important than the specifics of those cuts.

“There is an instinct by some in our party to say that if you cut a budget deal with the Republicans you caved. That’s nonsense in my view,” Mr. Plouffe said. “We have a responsibility to the country. We landed the plane here in a way that did produce a lot amount of spending cuts. Some of these were tough for us to abide by, but we were able to preserve so much of what’s important to us on the spending side.”

And Mr. Obama succeeded in preventing Republicans from succeeding on the policy provisions that would have ended federal financing for women’s health services that also perform abortions.

“We also prevented this important debate from being overtaken by politics and unrelated disagreements on social issues,” Mr. Obama said.

His remarks echoed ones he made after agreeing to the tax cut deal during the lame-duck session of Congress last year. As with that deal, Mr. Obama in his radio address seemed to anticipate the criticism he would get from his party.

“A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground,” the president said. “Now, the same cooperation has made it possible for us to move forward with the biggest annual spending cut in history. And it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead — from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our long-term deficits.”

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri tweeted simply: “Compromise. That wasn’t so bad was it?”