Portman: Obama 'Misleading' Americans by Saying We Ought to Pay Our Bills

By Susan Jones | January 16, 2013 | 10:12 AM EST

In this May 11, 2012, file photo, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, speaks to supporters at the Wayside Inn in West Union, Ohio.  (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) says he was "surprised" that President Obama "ignored the big issue" -- deficit reduction -- at his press conference on Monday.

"I mean, he is misleading folks about what's going on here. He's saying we ought to pay our bills. Well, of course we ought to pay our bills. That misses the point. The point is, what are the bills going forward going to be?"

Portman, interviewed Tuesday on CNBC's "Squawk Box," noted that Obama, when he was a U.S. senator, voted against raising the debt limit, calling it unpatriotic to run up the debt: "That was $6 trillion ago," Portman said.

"The president then also went on to say that, gosh, it would be unrealistic to tie deficit reduction to raising the debt limit when, in fact, of course, that's exactly what's been done over the years."

Portman recalled that in the 1985, Congress passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, increasing the debt limit to $2.078 trillion -- and at the same time requiring automatic across-the-board spending cuts if the federal deficit reached a certain amount.

"Remember, that (Gramm-Rudman) had rescissions and actually had reductions in spending at a time when our debt was much smaller than it is today and our annual deficits were much smaller. We've never had a trillion-dollar deficit until the last four years."

Congress has passed six deficit-reduction packages over the past 27 years -- and "all of them have been in the context of a debt limit, including, of course, the Budget Control Act two years ago," Portman said.

He said Obama is ignoring reality when he says debt reduction and the debt limit should be separate issues.

"But here's the opportunity going forward," said Portman a former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget: "It's not about not paying our bills. We'll pay our bills. The question is, what should those obligations be going forward? We have to adjust. If we don't reform our spending, of course, the country careens into bankruptcy. Some on your show this morning would argue we're already there. And this is the opportunity to do it.

"I have proposed legislation that I'll be introducing our first day we're back that says let's do a dollar-for-dollar reduction. So if we raise the debt limit a dollar, let's have a dollar reduction over 10 years. That happens to get us, over 10 years, back to about 20 percent of spending as a percent of our economy, which is where we've been historically since World War II. So I think there's a logical way to get through this."

Portman said Congress also needs to deal with the "important but unsustainable" entitlement programs.

"If we just extend this debt limit without doing anything on the deficit and this long-term debt, I believe that we face the risk of another downgrade."