WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave a lukewarm welcome to the partial spending freeze being proposed by President Barack Obama.
Reid, D-Nev., said today that he had not been briefed on the president’s plan and would need to look at it “very, very closely.”
Reid said that from his service on the Senate Appropriations Committee, he was aware of how much states depend on federal programs.
“We’ll have to look see what the president’s talking about cutting,” Reid said. “We have to make sure that we have money for education,” and also police services and firefighting among other things.
At his State of the Union speech Wednesday, Obama is expected to propose a three-year freeze on $477 billion in discretionary spending — the programs that Congress funds from year to year.
According to administration officials, the freeze would not cover the military, Veterans Affairs and homeland security. Also, entitlement spending programs like Medicare and Social Security would not be affected. The federal budget totaled $3.5 trillion this year.
Obama officials further said the freeze would not be on spending across the board. Rather, some programs would see increases and some would be cut, with the net effect being to hold spending level starting in 2011. Reid said it was worthwhile for Obama “to look at this little piece of the economy.”
Beyond that, Democrats and Republicans blamed each other for heavy spending that prompted the Obama freeze plan.
Reid sought to pin Republicans for spending money on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, on tax cuts, and on prescription drug benefits “that were not paid for.”
Meanwhile, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pointed a finger the other way.
“Freezing non-defense domestic discretionary spending would be a good idea,” McConnell said. “However, if you put into the baseline the stimulus, the TARP, and you account for inflation, it’s not nearly as big a step as the American people are asking us to take.”
“I think any indication the administration is trying to reduce spending is a good thing, but we’ve been on quite a binge over the last 12 months, and it’s going to take a lot more than just this kind of modest freeze to get us back on the right track,” McConnell said.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760.