March 8th, 2009
09:39 AM ET
5 years ago

Orszag on spending bill: 'Is it uglier than we'd like? Absolutely.'

Orszag defended the administration on earmarks.
Orszag defended the administration on earmarks.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama's budget director told CNN's John King the spending bill before Congress right now is "uglier than we'd like," but insisted the administration had little power to change it - and little choice but to support it, to preserve funding for key White House priorities.

"This is like your relief pitcher coming into the ninth inning, and wanting to redo the whole game," said Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag on State of the Union Sunday. "Next year we're going to be the starting pitcher, and the game's going to be completely different."

Watch Orszag on why the White House says it can't change the bill

The spending bill currently being considered by Congress contains thousands of earmarks - nearly $8 billion directed by lawmakers for specific projects in their home states. As a candidate, Obama campaigned on a pledge of earmark reform.

But Orzag on Sunday defended the administration's decision not to force Congress to remove earmarks from the bill, which was negotiated last fall, before Obama took office.

"Would we have written this thing differently? Absolutely," Orszag told King. "But we face a basic choice here, which is this was negotiated last fall. It's been baked in....is it uglier than we'd like? Yes. But again, this was negotiated last year. We think we should just move on. When we are engaged in the fiscal year 2010 appropriations process, it's going to look a lot different.

"I think at this point, given where we are in the process, we either need to sign this legislation, even though there is lots of stuff in there that we may not support, or we have to forgo, you know, those key investments in combating health care fraud and education and energy.

"This, again, I mean, I'm sorry I keep repeating myself, but this was negotiated before we came into office and we don't think it's possible to step in and dramatically change it."


Filed under: Peter Orszag • State of the Union
soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. tchanta

    John King is a joke. He let Cantor parrot falsehoods such as the train from Vegas to California. He kept interrupting Orzag, a member of the cabinet (CNN had to tell us that he is the youngest of the cabinet – does he not deserve respect?).

    CNN wants to become Fox.

    March 8, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  2. Lori

    Get real Republicans: Because of the mess YOUR President Bush and Republicans left us, President Obama now has an economic mess unheard of since the Great Depression. President Obama has to pick and choose his battles right now as he has so much on his plate. The American people are not idiots or drones like the Republicans who listen to Limbaugh and others and believes that the President can cure and change everything in a few months. Get real! We'll do just fine with 1% earmarks that are on the bill (40% of which belong to Republicans) and we will survive.

    Now, if you have no faith in the President and want him to fail, then please move to Afghanistan with the Taliban (you'll have plenty in common with them).

    March 8, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. Chipster

    gary: are you kidding? Obama, Pelosi, & Reid are the reason the country is in trouble? Do you think it has nothing to do with the $4+ trillion added to the debt over the past 8 years? Nope, don't confuse Gary with facts – 6 weeks is all it took for the new administration to run the country down. We were in great shape until Jan21st. You can't argue with logic like that – there's just not point in bothering. Does anyone know what color the sky is on Gary's planet.

    March 8, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. ib

    So much for Change Obama. He is a bigger joke than Bush was and that is big real big along with Dodd; Franks; Pelosi. We have no leadership in this country from either party. They all should be voted out while we still have a country.

    March 8, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  5. Podo3500

    This is a prophesy. I believe that the rhetoric's of the Republican party, and the antagonism they have decided to engage about State Sovereignty and attitudes, will lead to a purely divisive struggle, where independence will become the Key Word for Americans. The Republicans know that if they let Obama ,resolve the key economic downturn worries, they will be the losers. So they believe all efforts must be put in place to distract the key objectives of the Government.

    Americans will regret this divide which is being perpetrated by the Republicans. If they continue in this way, I think America will become like Yugoslavia. Will be divided into Red and Blue States. This will mean loss of power , loss of credibility an loss of World status.

    The way Hatred has been promoted in America, where for the first time in the history of America, a major Political party calls for the failure openly of the AMERICAN GOVERNMENT is a first step to a divided America. Its the Russians and the enemies of America who sort this kind of hatred. Its a shame to America for what the Republicans have done and are still doing to divide America.

    There will be no time for recovery if every other day in America , the Republicans and their rich colleagues distort the markets , by creating more unemployment as a strategy to discredit the Obama administration. Do you know that ,%85 percent of companies closing down or sending workers away are Republican related companies or STATES? Since Obama decided to call back their tax free funds in UBS, the GOP members and allies have become enemies of America. Where is the loyalty to the American dream?

    Peter Orszag has said exactly what is right, and will continue to do so to help the American people come out of this enclosure. But take my word . If the Republicans do not change their attitudes, this will lead to the beginning of the Fall of America. The division enable foreign countries like Russia , China and Iran to exploit such breakaway ideas perpetrated by the Republicans. Read my lips.

    March 8, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  6. Terry

    I've heard that Republicans are planning to pull ALL of their own earmarks from the spending bill. Not THAT will show the commie-socialist-liberal-tree huggers that Conservatives mean what they say!

    March 8, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  7. shannon

    Helllloooooo,did you know the dems were in charge of Congress last fall......just wondering.

    March 8, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  8. Bob Johnson

    Dear Charging Elephants:

    Please (re)read the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States of America. Do it today because your understanding of reality is degraded and appears to be warped.

    Brack Obama is our president. He is president of us all. Whether you hate him or his policies does not matter, even a whit. For US to succeed we must hang together. Take a break from kneejerk opposition and feel pride that we have an able leader.

    Yes, he is. Yes we can! Swallow your bile and climb on the wagon.

    March 8, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  9. Tim

    So, GOP, just take your 40% of pork out of the bill. What your problem? If you mean what you say, then remove your pork as a symbol of meaning what you say...or just shut up. Its a simple choice.
    Well?

    March 8, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  10. Tim

    Agreed, John King sucked today. He was very unbalanced. He let Cantor get away with just about everything today. What a weenie.
    King seems to be a little more inteseted in his magic Ouiji board than real journalism

    March 8, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  11. About face

    Isn't plastic surgery an option?

    March 8, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  12. Proud American

    This entire thing is laughable. The bill is not Obama's bill it's only been going around for the prior 5 months. Oh by the way 40% of the earmarks.....REPUBLICAN, but let's continue to blame the Democrats.

    March 8, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  13. Dan

    I heard that 40% of the pork in this bill was REPUBLICANS. I'm seriously disgusted as to how the Republican party is acting. They are putting politics before the people of this country.

    we voted for Obama to get things done. My message to the Republican party: GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!!

    March 8, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  14. Bob Johnson

    Hey, Terry:

    Where did you hear that bull? Just read Sen. Kyle's statements: "My budget requests are not earmarks because I can justify them."

    This is "last year's business." Let's move on.

    March 8, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  15. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    Did ANYBODY even read this spending bill? Obviously NOT!!
    This is how pork gets in; nobody knows until it's too late! Before this kind of money gets spent, this spending plan should be read FIRST. And let the peole know what is in it

    After all, this is OUR money that's being spent. No more excuses!

    March 8, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  16. Kay

    Concerning the constant fall of the Dow, I believe the wall street conservative brokers are holding the trump cards, and are betting that President Obama is blamed for the downward fall. Not just betting , but manipulating the buying and selling of the markets. I heard today on Face The Nation that conservative wall street brokers have no trust in the President's economic plan, that says to me that they will work against the plan (cut off their noses to spite their faces). They are worst than their leader Rush L., he talks about President Obama failing, they on the other hand are working to see that he fails. When wall street got it's huge bailout, where were the ney sayers?

    March 8, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  17. Joey B

    "commie-socialist-liberal-tree huggers." Wow, where do I begin? I love how conservatives hate all things liberal, unless it's fiscal policy we speak of... Oh wait, did you all forget? THATS EXACTLY WHAT GOT US IN THIS MESS IN THE FIRST PLACE. You know I could rape my first amendment rights too by labeling all conservatives as selfish-rascist-redneck-greedy-limbaugh worshipers, but I prefer to call all the conservatives I know by the name their mothers gave them. Also, have any conservatives on this site (or even in America in general) ever even spoken to a person that considers themselves socialist or communist? Since I know the answer is no I will let you folks in on a little secret: ALL PEOPLE ON THE FAR LEFT HATE OBAMA, PELOSI, AND REID!!! None of those people (or even anyone in Congress aside from Kusinich) stand for a single one of the principles of the Communist or Socialist party platforms. Also, newsflash Republican America, there is a differance between the terms Communist and Socialist and they are not interchangeable... Do yourselves a favor and educate yourselves for a change. The ignorance of the right never ceases to amaze me. This country very well could not recover from this mess that the republican party put us in and all republicans can do is blame everything on the 7 weeks we have had of Obama. I keep hearing cries from the right about the lack of leadership from Obama yet the only insight they seem to offer is taking any quote from a liberal and saying the exact opposite. Is that leadership? Is there even a republican party platform anymore or is limbaugh not done having it edited yet?

    March 8, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  18. Mike

    Terry, I'll believe it when I see it. Repubs, except for McCain, have been plugging earmarks into spending bills for years. Its what they (you) do. And yes, I know that Dems do too, but at least Dems cop to them instead of saying they don't add earmarks. "Commie-socialist-liberal-tree huggers" ??? Come on you idiot, think of something a little more original with that alledged grey matter you have.

    For once, I wish that our "leaders" would put the country first instead of thiking about re-election and putting the President down. When Bush took over, I (a hard Dem)I supported him as he was our PRESIDENT. I disagreed with him, but still. At least until he started raping the Constitution

    March 8, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  19. Monroe

    Why don't Republicans just remove all their earmarks if they're so concerned about it? Lindsey Graham said earmarks are bad, except for his own for a convention center in Myrtle Beach, which he'd fight to get back in if it was removed. Listen Republicans, Obama can't do everything for you! He's not your nanny, take some responsibility!

    March 8, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  20. Flo

    After watching this interview I have to say John King's analogy of crime was ridiculous.........one has nothing to do with the other and the level of severity is different. Signing a bill with earmarks (some good and some bad) is not the same as protecting a community from crime. Mr. King was reaching but fell short. I wish he had focused on the Cantor segment and asked him some of the questions Mr. Orzag raised during the interview. I wish someone would come up with a show where the American people get to ask politicians questions and press them on issues that matters the most. These type of interviews would serve alot of good and put these folks on notice. CNN start working on a format to give the public a real voice not your sponsors.

    March 8, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  21. Phil

    It doesn't seem too long ago that Republicans were trying to defend tax exemptions for wooden arrowmakers in the bank bailout bill....however, the issue of earmarks is in all reality trivial for both parties. Cleaning up earmarks will fail to produce any real change in the economy, and would actually hurt the political process and the economy by undermining the ability to form coalitions during a crisis. Call me an apologist, but there are more important matters facing the nation.

    March 8, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  22. paul oregon

    cnn credibility is as good the GOPs credibility. i thought foxs news was basied!!!!!!!!

    March 8, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  23. A. Darton

    People you gave Bush eight years to destroy this country, now all of a sudden in a couple of months President Obama suppose to have these problems solve. I still think we have the right man in the White House. It's just the fools all around him that he has to deal with. Democrats and Republicans.Change doesn't come easy. If people are use to doing things their way, they are not going to want to change. Congress feel it's their right to have these earmarks.

    March 8, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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