President Barack Obama lambasted Republicans for promoting "irresponsible" policies in their Pledge to America Monday, and defended his administration's moves to reduce the deficit and improve the lives of regular citizens.
"What I'm seeing out of the Republican leadership over the last several years has been a set of policies that are just irresponsible, and we saw in their Pledge to America a similar set of irresponsible policies," the president told TODAY's Matt Lauer in the Green Room of the White House during a 30-minute interview.
The so-called Pledge to America, unveiled by House Republicans last week, promises to cut taxes, reduce federal spending to 2008 levels, repeal Obama's health care reform law and end government control of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It also promises to cut down on government regulation and end Obama's stimulus program.
"They propose $4 trillion worth of tax cuts and $16 billion in spending cuts and then they say we're going to magically balance the budget," Obama said during the 30-minute interview. "That's not a serious approach."
Contrast between philosophies The Republican plan is short on specifics but shows the stark contrast between the philosophies of the two parties weeks ahead of key midterm elections where Republicans are forecast to make big gains and potentially win back the House of Representatives.
"The new agenda embodies Americans' rejection of the notion that we can simply tax, borrow and spend our way to prosperity," one of its authors, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, said Saturday. "It offers a new way forward that hasn't been tried in Washington — an approach focused on cutting spending — which is sadly a new idea for a Congress accustomed to always accelerating it."
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two parties is on taxes, where Republicans want to extend all of George W. Bush's income tax cuts permanently — at a cost of some $4 trillion over 10 years.
Democrats are proposing to keep the rates where they are for individuals making up to $200,000 and for families earning up to $250,000 — but to hit wealthier individuals and some small businesses with tax hikes in January. Their plan would cost $3 trillion.
On hold until November
Congress is unlikely to vote on what to do with the Bush tax cuts until after November and b oth sides are using the disagreement as campaign fodder for the midterm elections.
David Axelrod, Obama's chief political adviser, said Sunday that Republican refusal to accept higher taxes on top-earners would hurt GOP candidates this fall. "They're going to have to explain to their constituents why they're holding up tax cuts for the middle class," Axelrod told ABC News. "And I think it's an untenable position to say, 'We're going to allow your taxes to go up on January 1st unless the president agrees to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.'"
Republicans counter that any increase in tax rates would hamper a struggling economy. The GOP also says that delaying a vote until after the election just fuels feelings of economic uncertainty.
"The Democrats have failed to lead this," said McCarthy on FOX News. "They are going to want to leave the House without dealing with it. That uncertainty itself is keeping capital on the sidelines and keeping jobs from being created in America."