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Setting the record straight

Top Republican urges OMB Director to correct “factually incorrect” statements about President Obama’s budget

• February 17, 2012 12:00 pm

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A top Republican lawmaker is challenging President Obama’s budget director to correct remarks he made during a recent hearing on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget acting director Jeffrey Zients on Friday urging him to revise for the record "factually incorrect" statements he made in testimony earlier this week.

"I want to give you an opportunity to correct your statement for the record," Sessions wrote. "Your response will affect how your performance, and that of the president, will be judged by the American people."

At Tuesday’s hearing, Sessions became frustrated with Zients’ refusal to answer a simple question about the president’s latest budget.

"Do you propose to spend more money over the next 10 years than what the Budget Control Act and current law would cause us to spend?" Sessions asked Zients on Tuesday.

Zients repeatedly evaded the question, responding with a series of vague statements such as: "I think what we have is a much more honest baseline," eventually suggesting that the president’s budget spends less than projected by law.

Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget requests $46.959 trillion in federal spending over the next decade, making it the most expensive White House proposal in United States history.

That figure is more than the most recent projection from the Congressional Budget Office ($44.251 trillion), more than is called for in the Budget Control Act ($45.552 trillion), and more than Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget ($45.952 trillion).

Session went so far as to challenge Zients to resign his post if his comments proved inaccurate.

"Let me ask you this. If you are incorrect in saying that you do not increase spending more than the current law would you consider resigning your current office?" Sessions asked.

Zients did not directly answer the question, but said he was "confident" that the president’s budget would reduce the federal deficit by "more than $4 trillion" over 10 years.

That figure, and the litany of accounting gimmicks used to achieve it, has been roundly rejected by commentators of all political persuasions.

Liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote that president’s budget "begins with a broken promise, adds some phony policy assumptions, throws in a few rosy forecasts and omits all kinds of painful decisions."

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the plan "would barely stabilize the debt—and at too high a level."

Sessions called it "one of the most spectacular fiscal cover-ups in American history."

Take away the gimmicks included in the president’s budget, and the true deficit reduction figure becomes as low $273 billion over 10 years, primarily achieved by raising $1.9 trillion in new taxes over that same period.

Sessions’ letter is intended to give Zients a chance to ameliorate what the senator called "a continuing and deliberate obfuscation by the White House."

"Fairness and responsible management of the people’s money demands an honest answer to my simple question," he wrote. "To properly address our fiscal crisis, can’t the president’s team honestly answer how their budget impacts the spending and debt course we are on?"