Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) “said the recession remains ongoing and the spending cuts proposed by House Republicans are ‘devastating,’” The Hill reports.
"There are a lot of people who are talking about how the recession is over, and I don’t believe that," Sanders said in an interview with the St. Albans Messenger on Monday.
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) delivered the weekly Republican address today.
On the stimulus package:
“People are looking for leadership to help create jobs and opportunity and instead what they see is the same, tired political responses. We were told two years ago this month that the way to grow the economy was through bigger government, more spending, and more borrowing. The Stimulus plan ended up costing over a trillion dollars when you include the interest on the money that had to be borrowed to pay for it. It was a grand experiment that failed. It not only failed to produce new jobs, an economic boost the Obama Administration promised, the trillion dollar price tag, combined with higher levels of spending across government, added up to a record deficit again this year and a national debt that is now dangerously close to the size of the entire U.S. economy. This growing red ink is hurting the economy today and mortgaging the future for our kids and grandkids.
“This means enacting new tax policies that take away uncertainty and encourage innovation and investment and make us more competitive in a global economy. It means real health care reform that truly reduces costs, helping working families and small businesses afford access, and addressing the biggest cost-driver in entitlement programs that everyone acknowledges are unsustainable. It means sensible regulatory reform that reverses the growing burdens on employers that drive jobs overseas. It means a national energy policy that uses our own resources to stop our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and it means stopping the red ink that threatens to swamp our economy.”
On the President’s budget:
“Once a year Presidents are required to submit a federal budget that sets out a vision for the coming year and into the future. It is a leadership opportunity and a solemn responsibility. There was a lot of anticipation surrounding the President’s budget release last week. After all, President Obama had repeatedly and eloquently described the dire fiscal condition of the nation and he promised action. In last year’s budget proposal, he established a Fiscal Commission that issued a stern report in November calling for deep spending reductions to stave off a fiscal and economic disaster. The President himself has rightly pointed out, ‘What we have done is kicked the can down the road,’ and ‘we are now at the end of the road and [are] not in a position to kick it any further.’
“And, yet, the President’s budget did exactly that. He rejected the dire warnings and recommendations of his own Fiscal Commission and not only kicked the can down the road but made the road more perilous by advocating deeper debt and ignoring bipartisan calls for entitlement reform and pro-growth policies, including tax reform and regulatory restraint.
Senate Democrats “tried late Wednesday afternoon to pass several bills designed to spur job creation but Republicans objected to what they called a political ploy,” The Hill reports.
Republicans stuck to the pledge to halt any legislation that does not address the expiring tax rates or provide stop-gap government funding.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who will head the Senate Democrats’ messaging and communications efforts in 2012, spearheaded the Dems’ effort.
Democrats attempted to move an extension of federal unemployment insurance benefits; legislation to encourage the construction of clean-energy homes; a bill providing federal incentives for investment in communities hit hard by the recession; and an extension of tax credits for employers that hire previously-unemployed workers.
Republican Senators “objected to each of the motions to approve by unanimous consent.”
“Republicans have said that we believe the single most important step we can take to create jobs is keep the current tax rates, which will go up automatically Jan. 1,” said Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.)
“Secondly, we need to fund the government. Funding expires this Friday and after that we can move to whatever else the Democratic leader would like to bring up,” Alexander said. “We should fund the government, keep the tax rates where they are, freeze spending and go home.”
Senate Republicans “intend to block action on virtually all Democratic-backed legislation unrelated to tax cuts and government spending in the current postelection session of Congress, officials said Tuesday, adding that the leadership has quietly collected signatures on a letter pledging to carry out the strategy,” the AP reports.
If carried out, it would doom Democratic-backed attempts to end the Pentagon’s practice of discharging openly gay members of the military service and give legal status to young illegal immigrants who join the military or attend college.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has made both measures a priority as Democrats attempt to enact legislation long sought by groups that supported them in the recent midterm elections.
A nuclear arms treaty with Russia that President Barack Obama wants ratified would not be affected, since any debate would take place under different rules than those that apply to legislation. Even so, its passage is not assured as Republicans are seeking concessions from the White House.
It’s unclear “how many of the Senate’s 42 Republicans had signed the draft letter, which the leadership intends to make public quickly.”
The letter comes “after comments by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and others in his party that the voters made it clear in the elections they want lawmakers to focus on economic issues.”
Update: The entire Republican caucus signed the letter. Read it here.
Senator John Thune (R-SD) “needled President Obama’s campaigning on behalf of Democrats in the Republican weekly radio address, mocking the president on his campaign rhetoric,” The Hill reports.
Thune, a member of the Senate GOP leadership who may challenge Obama in the 2012 presidential election, posed the quintessential question for a party trying to unseat incumbents.
"I would like to suggest a simple question people should ask themselves to help cut through all the talk: Are you better off today than you were two years ago?" Thune said Saturday.
Thune sought to undercut Obama’s message on the campaign trail in the closing days of the campaign, focusing on the job losses Democrats have suffered over the past two years. He asserted that the president should be more focused on job creation than on re-electing Democrats.
“But if the conversations I’ve had with voters are any indication, the president should spend less time campaigning to save the jobs of Democrats in Congress, and more time trying to create jobs for the American people," he said. “The Obama Experiment has failed."
(credit image – daylife/getty)