WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama challenged Congress on Thursday to approve $17 billion in additional spending cuts in the coming budget year, a sum that amounts to less than one-half of one percent of the total federal budget. Obama acknowledged “none of this will be easy” amid the continuing, deep economic slump.
Announcing 121 proposed program eliminations and curtailments, Obama said that Americans are tightening their belts in these difficult times and want to know if Washington “is prepared to act with the same sense of responsibility.”
Republicans immediately denounced his proposed budget cuts as too modest. “The resulting savings are relatively minor compared with the government’s fiscal woes,” said House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Answering criticism that his cuts were but a drop in a $3.4 trillion spending bucket, Obama said: “Some of the cuts we’re putting forward today are more painful than others. Some are larger than others. In fact a few of the programs we eliminate will produce less than a million dollars in savings. Outside of Washington, that’s still a lot of money.”
The spending cuts were detailed in a 2 1/2 inch thick supplement to the broad 2010 budget outline that the president proposed in February.
Going before the cameras at the White House, Obama said, “These savings, large and small, add up.”
He said he’s entrusting budget director Peter Orszag to follow through with the cuts. But there already have been indications that he’ll meet some resistance in Congress.
“For every dollar we seek to save,” he conceded, “there will be those who have an interest in seeing it spent. That’s how unnecessary programs survive year after year.”
“But at this moment — at this difficult time for our nation — we cannot accept business as usual,” Obama added. “We cannot accept anything less than a government ready to meet the challenges of our time.”