Republican responses from Capitol Hill were swift and brutal Monday night, following President Barack Obama’s speech to the American people about the federal debt limit. The assessments were as unanimous as they were scathing: Obama’s “balanced” fix to the debt limit is flawed.
Moments after Obama and House Speaker John Boehner concluded their dueling remarks, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Senate Finance Committee’s highest-ranking Republican, fired the first of many GOP broadsides.
“The President spoke of consensus and compromise,” said Hatch in a statement, “but when has he ever brought people together?”
“The American people … expect better than more spending, more taxes, and more debt that is a lead weight around the neck of our nation’s weak economy and the millions of unemployed Americans looking for work,” Hatch added. “It’s time the President delivered.”
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt echoed the GOP’s mantra on taxes and spending levels: “Our problem in Washington isn’t that we’re taxing too little — it’s that we’re spending too much. Unfortunately, the President’s repeated calls for higher taxes will not encourage job creators to grow their businesses and hire more workers.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham took perhaps the hardest line, saying Obama’s approach is the antithesis of real change, and warning that “President Obama has never committed to any plan that will stop America from becoming Greece.”
“[T]he only hope I see where we avoid becoming a debtor nation,” Graham added, “is passage of a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment.” (Boehner makes his case to America, and his own caucus)
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky criticized both parties’ latest approaches to the debt ceiling.
“The plans proposed by the respective leadership of both chambers of Congress do nothing to defeat our debt, but rather perpetuate it,” said Paul. “Both of the Congressional ‘deals’ would leave our nation spending more and accruing more debt…”
The Senate freshman from Kentucky directed his strongest words at the president: “Political scare tactics and smoke-and-mirror ‘deals’ won’t solve our debt problem, and in fact will likely cause a larger one by forcing the downgrading of our debt rating.”
Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, took an equally hard line with Obama, saying the president “continues to sow the seeds of division in this nation by lining his misleading rhetoric with the tenets of class warfare.” (Obama, Boehner present conflicting debt crisis solutions)
“He continues to accept little responsibility for his own administration’s reckless contribution to the economic and fiscal calamity we face or his reckless behavior that has brought us to this difficult moment.”
The question going forward is whether these conservative lawmakers and their colleagues will ultimately swallow the medicine and accept Speaker of the House John Boehner’s proposal, or instead catapult Congress into a prolonged stalemate as the August 2 deadline looms.
The House is expected to vote on Wednesday, and the Senate on Friday.