Politics & Government

California's Senators, House Reps split on Obama's spending freeze

WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Dan Lungren is glad that President Barack Obama is proposing a three-year spending freeze on most domestic programs, but he hopes Congress goes further and actually cuts spending.

"If we can build on his talk about a freeze, I'll be happy to look at it," said Lungren, of Gold River.

Democratic Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento said she applauds the president's desire to balance the budget but fears a spending freeze might not be the right approach.

"I am worried about the real-world impact a spending freeze could have in Sacramento and on our flood protection infrastructure," she said.

Matsui added that Congress must look at its complete budget, "including defense spending and our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan – all of which cost billions upon billions more than fixing our aging infrastructure."

After watching the president's first State of the Union speech, Californians in Congress differed on the specifics of his prescription for reducing the nation's soaring debt, but most endorsed trying to curb spending.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said she backs Obama's proposed freeze as a step toward fiscal responsibility.

"This is consistent with what we did in Congress under President Clinton, when we turned record deficits into record surpluses," Boxer said. "As long as it's not across the board and you can choose your priorities, I think it's workable."

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco offered a new twist: While Obama wants to freeze non-defense discretionary spending, Pelosi suggested freezing some military spending as well. She said the freeze should apply to defense contractors but exclude funding for troops and veterans.

Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena said Washington needs "to do some trimming of the fat" but that he feared a freeze might hurt. "I'm going to watch very carefully to make sure that the president lives up to his promise to go through the budget line by line, rather than make across-the-board spending cuts," said Thompson.

Many members said they were happy to hear Obama say his top priority will now be jobs, but some were skeptical. "I'm a little wary," said Lungren. "The president tonight sounds like he's changing his rhetoric. … But I still wait to see if the actions are going to follow the words."

Matsui said Obama and Congress must have "a laser-beam focus on creating jobs and turning around our economy." And she said Obama's speech should serve "as the final rallying cry" for Congress to pass a health-care overhaul.

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