Obama Criticizes House GOP's Deficit Plan

Melissa Block and Robert Siegel report on President Obama's deficit reduction proposal.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

While President Obama laid out his vision for how to reduce the country's deficit today, House lawmakers are now getting to the business of wrapping up this year's spending plan. Despite all the excitement over the budget deal that averted a government shutdown last week, Congress really just reset the clock. Once again, lawmakers have until midnight on Friday to wrap up work on the compromise. House and Senate leaders expect the bill to pass.

But as NPR's Audie Cornish reports from Capitol Hill, getting it through Congress won't be easy.

AUDIE CORNISH: You know a vote is going to be a tough sell when the lawmaker in charge of leading support opens with this.

SIEGEL: What we have before us is a measure that I don't like. I don't like it.

CORNISH: That's David Dreier, a California Republican and the chairman of the House Rules Committee.

SIEGEL: I don't believe that it does enough to reduce the size and scope and reach of government. I believe that we need to do more. But we have to remember that we've got to take that first step.

CORNISH: The package tries to carve more than $38 billion from day-to-day operating budgets of government agencies - less than the $61 billion House Republicans originally pushed for, and far more than what Democrats initially offered. But that hasn't quieted the grumbling in the GOP caucus. Some high- profile Republicans have come out against the compromise - the head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, Jim Jordan, and Tea Party favorites Mike Pence and Michele Bachmann.

Here's Bachmann, speaking at an event sponsored by an evangelical group in Iowa shortly after the shutdown vote a few days ago.

SIEGEL: I have to be quite honest with you and tell you that I broke with my own leadership this weekend on the vote on the budget bill, that came out on Friday night at about - at midnight.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SIEGEL: I have to tell you, I was very disappointed that the bill - at the bill that came through. And that was an understatement - my level of disappointment.

CORNISH: The problem, Bachmann says, is that the bill doesn't defund the new health-care law, nor does it include Pence's provision to bar funding for Planned Parenthood. The House majority's chief vote counter, Kevin McCarthy, says Republicans are focused on spending cuts. He says lawmakers are still reading over the details, but insists it will have enough support to pass.

SIEGEL: Think for one moment. In the State of the Union, the president sat out here and said we would freeze spending. Our speaker negotiated, outnumbered 3 to 1. We have cut spending. We know this is a long road up to that shiny city on the hill. And we just believe we just got to one more peak, and we'll continue to climb.

CORNISH: He wouldn't say whether they'll need Democrats to ensure passage. And so far, only a few have committed to it. Robert Andrews, of New Jersey, is one example.

SIEGEL: And I, frankly, salute both sides for leaving aside extraneous matters like not funding Planned Parenthood, and not funding the health-care bill. I think this is a worthy compromise. I'm glad to support it.

CORNISH: But liberal Democrats, like Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, are voting against it.

SIEGEL: I'm also pleased the leadership ignored the chants of shut it down - coming from the most extreme elements of their party. But I'm not pleased, Madam Speaker, with the so-called compromise. This bill cuts the wrong things too deeply, and ignores some of the things that could stand to be cut.

CORNISH: And then lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized some of the cuts as budget gimmicks - in part because some of the savings come from reclaiming leftover money, or winding down programs already set to end.

Audie Cornish, NPR News, the Capitol.

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