By Mike Lillis – LINK TO ORIGINAL>>>The Hill 08/21/10
House Republicans this weekend continued to blame Democrats for a lethargic economy, charging that last year's stimulus bill has hobbled the country with debt while failing to prevent the job losses that supporters promised.
"For every problem facing our nation, the answer from Washington has been to spend and spend, and – if that doesn’t work – spend some more," Rep. Charles Djou (R-Hawaii), said Saturday, delivering the Republicans' weekly radio address.
"The current administration in Washington told us that borrowing and spending billions would create jobs ‘immediately’ and keep unemployment from exceeding eight percent. They were wrong. Instead, we’ve lost millions of jobs and unemployment remains near 10 percent."
The message is indication that, despite repeated GOP criticisms of healthcare reform, finance reform, climate change proposals, and a host of other issues championed by Democrats this Congress, Republicans are focusing most intently on the struggling economy — a theme they intend to drive home straight into November's midterm elections.
Fueling their argument, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Thursday projected the 2010 budget deficit to top $1.3 trillion this year. That, combined with troubling signs in the housing market, CBO warned, forecasts a long, slow road to full recovery.
"The considerable number of vacant houses and underused factories and offices will be a continuing drag on residential construction and business investment," said CBO Director Doug Elmendorf, "and slow income growth as well as lost wealth will restrain consumer spending."
Democrats have defended their track record, arguing that the recession was a product of failed Republican policies they've been fighting for years to overturn. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) this week blamed GOP leaders for obstructing Democratic efforts to kick-start hiring, most recently when Senate Republicans blocked a small-business lending bill that had already cleared the House.
"As Democrats fight for fiscal discipline and a strong economy," Hoyer said, "Republicans are advocating for a return to the exact same agenda that created enormous deficits and drove our economy into the deepest recession in a generation."
Djou on Saturday floated an alternative proposal, urging Democratic leaders to consider a GOP bill that would immediately eliminate $1.3 trillion in federal spending. Sponsored by Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the bill would cut unspent stimulus funds while freezing government salaries and federal hiring.
That plan, Djou said, would "demonstrate to taxpayers at home and allies abroad that America is serious about getting its fiscal house in order."
Djou also highlighted the coming battle over the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of the year. Backed by President Obama, Democrats are pushing a plan to extend those cuts for all but the wealthiest families — those earning more than $250,000 a year. Republicans, meanwhile, want the cuts to continue for everyone.
"We will not have real economic growth if we keep raising taxes on small businesses," Djou said.
The Joint Committee on Taxation recently estimated that about 3 percent of the nation's businesses — big or small — would be affected by the hike if the high-income cut was allowed to expire.
Conjuring a theme that's familiar to anyone who followed the 2008 elections, Republicans are calling for a new direction.
"If we keep doing the same things, we’re going to get the same dismal results," Djou said. "It’s time to change direction."
On the issue of deficit spending, though, Republicans are battling not only Democrats, but also their own legislative history. The $700 billion Wall Street bailout, for instance, was championed by the Bush administration, and passed with the support of GOP leaders in both chambers of Congress.
On healthcare reform, the Republicans have some skeletons as well. Medicare's prescription drug benefit, pushed by a GOP-led Congress in 2003, is projected to cost $373 billion through 2013 — none of it offset by spending cuts or revenue hikes elsewhere in the budget.
David Walker, the former U.S. Comptroller General, said the prescription drug bill was "probably the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s."