Republican Sens. Mike Lee (R., Utah), Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R., Penn.) joined top conservatives to blast President Obama and Senate Democrats Monday following last week’s unhappy reports on the economy.
Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf predicted Wednesday that the U.S. will begin 2013 in an economic recession if current policies remain unaltered, while the Labor Department reported that jobless claims rose for the second week in a row. Topping it off, the U.S. national debt is expected to hit a historic $16 trillion high this week.
“With our debt approaching $16 trillion – $5.3 trillion more than when President Obama entered the White House – it is abundantly clear that our government has a veritable fiscal crisis on its hands,” said Toomey, who previously served on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction—otherwise known as the “Super Committee.”
“Instead of trying to solve these problems, President Obama and the Democratic majority in the Senate have chosen to continuously kick the can down the road,” he said.
“Sen. Patty Murray (D – Wash.) actually supports Congress doing nothing and taking the American economy and American families over the fiscal cliff,” he said.
The “fiscal cliff” is what beltway insiders are calling the scheduled confluence of new tax increases, expiring tax breaks, and automatic spending restraints imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. These policies, and myriad others, will take effect in January.
While Republicans and some Democrats have spent the summer raising alarm and urging action to avert the cliff, President Obama and liberal Democrats in the Senate have indicated a desire to block any legislation that does not contain steep tax hikes on the rich.
“This kind of attitude is a complete abdication of Congress’s governing responsibility,” said Toomey.
Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) called Elmendorf’s forecast troubling and urged his colleagues in Congress to extend the Bush era tax cuts.
“Senate Democrats have recklessly threatened to let the country drive off the fiscal cliff as a political strategy to raise taxes on hardworking Americans,” said Lee.
“I hope others in their caucus are more responsible and join with Republicans in Congress to protect the economy, extend current tax rates, and make the kind of immediate spending reforms that will help reduce the deficit and balance the budget," he said.
Sen. Rob Portman, who is a member of the Budget Committee, said the latest report shows that the President’s plan to impose higher taxes on job creators will drive our economy into a recession. Portman also pointed out new regulations set to take effect in 2013—much to the dismay of business owners.
“We are also headed for a steep 'regulatory cliff' as several multibillion dollar regulations that have been postponed are set to go into effect after the November election, further hindering job creation across the nation,” Portman said.
“Democrats and Republicans should work together before the election to make sure our fragile economy is not saddled with these devastating tax increases and additional Washington red tape at year end,” he said.
Conservative groups across the country have joined the chorus.
Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer said President Obama cannot divorce himself from the economy he has governed.
“Years after the democrats' 'Summer of Recovery' the economy is still stagnant and the latest CBO report points that it is getting worse,” said Kremer.
“It is because of the policies of the Obama administration that the economy is where it is,” she said.
Ken Hoagland, chairman of Restore America’s Voice Foundation, said the CBO report shows just how unwise the president’s health care overhaul really was.
“At the very moment when Europe's sovereign debt crisis should have been teaching us the foolishness of irresponsible spending, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid rammed ObamaCare through Congress over the objections of a majority of Americans,” said Hoagland.
“Frightening new levels of debt and new taxes and penalties on the middle class, businesses and economic activity are not medicine for the nation but poison,” he said.
Seton Motley, president of the non-profit conservative group Less Government, put it starkest: “Obama broke the economy. Then ran over it with a red steamroller.”
Will the President join Congressional Republicans in charting a new fiscal course? Will liberal Democrats in the Senate make good on their threats to let the country careen off the fiscal cliff?
While Obama has actively avoided substantive policy discussions, consider the following exchange between Rep. Randy Forbes (R., VA) and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jeffrey Zients during a House Armed Services Committee hearing:
Forbes: “Do you believe it was reasonable to use a draconian method such as sequestration to force Congress to do anything?”
Zients: “There are five months remaining for Congress to act… What is holding us up right now is the Republican refusal to have the top 2 percent pay their fair share.”
The writing’s on the wall.
S.E. Robinson is freelance journalist and the deputy director of the Paul Revere Project.