Republicans React to Obama’s Speech: ‘And I Missed Lunch for This?'

By Susan Jones | April 14, 2011 | 6:24 AM EDT

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., at podium, declares that he was "disappointed" in President Obama's ‘deficit’ speech. Ryan appeared with other Republicans at a news conference on April 13, 2011. With him, from left, are: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( - President Barack Obama gave three Republicans -- Reps. Paul Ryan (Wis.) Dave Camp (Mich.), and Jeb Hesarling (Texas) -- a front-row seat at his "deficit" speech on Wednesday, then proceeded to blast the Republicans' detailed plan to fix the nation's economic woes, without offering details of his own.

According to Obama, Republicans have concluded that "even though we can't afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy." He also accused Republicans of wanting to end Medicare “as we know it.”

Rep. Jeb Hensarling said he was honored to receive an invitation to the speech, but as it turns out, it was something he could have watched back at his office: "I don’t know about my colleagues, but I thought to myself, ‘And I missed lunch for this?’" Hensarling said afterwards.
“This was not a speech designed for America to win the future. This was a speech designed for the president to attempt to win reelection. This was a speech that prioritizes the next election over the next generation. It was a speech that was heavy on aspirational goals and exceedingly light on specific proposals," Hensarling said.

Rep. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, wrote the Republican budget blueprint that Obama spent time attacking in his speech.

Ryan later told reporters that he had been pleased to receive an invitation to the speech, believing the administration was extending an olive branch: "Instead, what we got was a speech that was excessively partisan, dramatically inaccurate and hopelessly inadequate to addressing our country's pressing fiscal challenges," Ryan said.

"What we heard today was not fiscal leadership from our commander in chief. What we heard today was a political broadside from our campaigner in chief."

Hensarling’s objections to the president's speech include Obama’s insistence that higher taxes be levied on job creators: "If I had an opportunity, I would say, ‘Mr. President, how do you expect to help the job seeker by yet again punishing the job creator?’ I know of no nation that has ever taxed its way into economic prosperity. And, Mr. President, again, the deficit is the symptom; it is spending that is the disease."

Hensarling also noted that Obama took a pass on Social Security -- claiming that the enormous entitlement program isn't in any immediate danger: "Tell that to all the Americans who are scheduled to receive a 22 percent automatic benefit cut in the years to come," Hensarling said.

Hensarling said Republicans have a different idea, as outlined by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, whose "Path to Prosperity" budget plan will put America on a fiscally sustainable path, help create jobs, and ensure that our social safety net is saved for future generations. "Our path to prosperity is about saving the American dream for the next generation, ensuring that our children have greater opportunities than we have,” Hensarling said.

Many Republicans and pundits were surprised by the partisan tone and lack of specificity in President Obama’s speech.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said based on what he heard, it’s clear that President Obama “doesn’t view the nation's debt crisis as a problem to be solved, but as a tool to be used to advance his own reelection hopes.

“In one speech, King continued, “the President managed to hit all the notes that his demoralized liberal base wanted to hear: he played the class warfare card, he endorsed cutting defense spending, he demagogued Paul Ryan's 'Path to Prosperity,' he touted the unconstitutional ObamaCare law, and he even blamed Bush for the nation's current debt problems.

“While the speech may excite some on the far-left, it should be viewed with disappointment by Americans who were hoping that the President would put politics aside to work on behalf of cutting spending and lowering the nation's debt," Rep. King concluded.

House Speaker John Boehner said the president on Wednesday did not offer a plan to match Ryan's budget proposal: “He is asking Congress to raise the debt limit to continue paying Washington’s bills. The American people will not stand for that unless it is accompanied by serious action to reduce our deficit. More promises, hollow targets, and Washington commissions simply won’t get the job done."

Boehner and other Republicans say the tax increases advocated by Obama will kill jobs and therefore are a "non-starter."

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