WASHINGTON — Last month, New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg agreed to join President Barack Obama's cabinet as Commerce Secretary, but then he abruptly withdrew his name, saying he and the president were "functioning from a different set of views on many different items of policy."
Saturday, Gregg drove the point home when he warned that Obama is engineering an "extraordinary move of our government to the left."
Gregg, one of the Senate's leading voices on budget issues, charged in the GOP's weekly radio and Internet address that Obama's proposals would "dramatically grow the size and cost of government and move it to the left."
Obama proposed a $3.55 trillion fiscal 2010 budget that increases non-defense discretionary spending, which includes most domestic programs, by 10.1 percent. Congressional committees reduced that number slightly this week.
The Senate is scheduled to begin debating the budget Monday, with the House of Representatives taking it up later in the week. Both Houses are expected to pass a budget Thursday or Friday, and Congressional negotiators are likely to work on a compromise after that. Final action is expected in late April.
That budget, said Gregg, "spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much." Republicans have not presented a detailed alternative of their own but expect to in the coming days.
The GOP, Gregg said, believes "you create prosperity by having an affordable government that pursues its responsibilities without excessive costs, taxes or debt."
In other words, he said, "it is the individual American who creates prosperity and good jobs, not the government."
Taxes will go up, and the national debt will rise to record levels, he warned. Obama's proposed deficit would be about $1.38 trillion next year, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, while the Democratic-authored budget plans would trim that to about $1.2 trillion. Democratic lawmakers counter that President Bush inherited a surplus when he took office in 2001, and it was his budgets that helped the deficits soar.
The solution, according to Gregg, is to limit the growth of government "in a manner that is affordable not only today, but for the next generation, through limiting spending and addressing core issues like the cost of entitlements."
In his weekly Saturday address, Obama did not discuss the budget, focusing instead on flooding that has ravaged parts of North Dakota and surrounding areas.
"Even as we face an economic crisis which demands our constant focus, forces of nature can also intervene in ways that create other crises to which we must respond - and respond urgently," the president said. "For the people of North and South Dakota and Minnesota who live along rivers spilling over their banks, this is one such moment"
He noted that he granted a major disaster declaration request for North Dakota Tuesday and ordered federal support for the region. He also issued an emergency declaration for Minnesota, and said Saturday the government is also "keeping close watch on the situation in South Dakota as it develops."
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