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Republicans urge Obama to join in cutting spending

Republicans awaiting the president's State of the Union address urged Barack Obama to give up on new spending programs and join them instead in a drive to wrestle the federal budget deficit under control.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Republicans awaiting the president's State of the Union address urged President Barack Obama to give up on new spending programs and join them instead in a drive to wrestle the federal budget deficit under control.

"America is fast approaching a tipping point. Reckless spending today threatens to impoverish future generations tomorrow," said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who's been tapped to give the official GOP response to Obama's Tuesday night speech to Congress and the nation.

"The budget battle ahead will determine whether we continue our decline into a cradle-to-grave welfare state or move in a new direction consistent with America's founding ideals," Ryan added in an e-mail sent to conservative activists.

The GOP's point man on spending
Ryan will be the point man in the new House GOP majority's drive to rein in spending and bring the budget closer to balance. Tuesday's speech is the highest profile assignment yet for a wonky former congressional staff aide who has evolved into one of his party's brightest stars.

Ryan is best known for a controversial budget plan brimming with politically unpopular ideas like gradually turning Medicare into a voucher program, curbing Social Security benefits and allowing younger workers to divert Social Security taxes into private accounts. He says such tough steps are needed, given intractable budget deficits that threaten America's prosperity.

Ryan's plan, the "Roadmap for America," is so politically toxic that GOP campaign operatives urged candidates to shy away from it. Democrats went on the attack as soon as Ryan was named to deliver Tuesday's GOP response.

"Paul Ryan owes it to the national audience tonight to explain why he wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "He can't sweep his roadmap under the rug just because the spotlight will be shining brighter than usual."

Obama was to make his speech before a House chamber packed with Tea Party-backed GOP freshmen elected with a determination to slash spending and thwart the president's agenda.

In an unusual move, Tea Party-favorite Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., was set to follow Ryan's response with a nationally televised speech of her own.

Obama's call for a freeze on the annual operating budgets of most domestic agencies doesn't go far enough for Republicans. They are also deeply skeptical of his plan for investments in education, infrastructure, and research and development.

"I'm hopeful that the president has listened to the American people," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "I'm hopeful that the word 'investment' really isn't more stimulus spending and a bigger government here in Washington."