March 8th, 2009
09:39 AM ET
9 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 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. shannon

    that's bull, how stupid do they think we are. He could have those earmarks removed, he has line item veto power. He said no eamarks, he promised no earmarks. Another promise not kept. change lol

    March 8, 2009 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  2. denny

    all obama has to do is not sign the bill. that is a no brainer

    March 8, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  3. pat C.

    if this is last years budget then why are so many repubs as well as dems trying to fight this? i think our president should veto every single ear mark and move on! he can not seem to please anyone so why try. he needs to get tough and stay tough and not worry about making one of the memebers mad. this is president obama's year now and everything is being blamed on him anyway so just VITO the pork and make the american public happy. afterall we are the ones that voted for him and we will be the same that vote for him next go round. mr. president do what you were elected to do!!

    March 8, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  4. Spencer

    So, it is or it isn't his bill? And he is or he isn't president this year? Is he asking for a do-over and not include this year because all the "meanies" will be gone by then? This is exactly what just slightly less than most of us expected and the rest ignored. Rookie president. Rookie politician. Here's the trick-you UNDER promise and OVER deliver...not the other way around. To use the president's favorite words, the only "crisis" or "catastrophe" we're facing is this presidency.

    March 8, 2009 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  5. True Conservative

    I'm tired of all this, "this bill was written before Obama took office" BS
    Bush would have vetoed this bill....He made that clear.
    Bush agreed to sign a six-month continuing resolution instead of a one-year and Democrats jumped at it. They figured if they won the election, they could ressurrect this Porky budget-buster.'s back...six months older and even more stinky!
    If Obama signs it, his fingerprints are on it....not Bush's.
    All the spin in the world doesn't change the facts.

    March 8, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  6. Marey

    President Obama inherited so many problems and this is just one more. I wish the Congress would own up to their pork belly and stop trying to push yet one more of their responsibilities onto the NEW administration. On the other hand though, won't these pork belly projects create jobs throughout the country?

    March 8, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  7. linda

    The excuses begin!

    March 8, 2009 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  8. Glennis

    Little power to change it? Say what? If they can't change it, who can? Who's in charge up there? Oh, right. Nobody.

    March 8, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  9. Obama - NOPE

    The Democrat "leadership" under Obama-Pelosi-Reid is a disaster.

    March 8, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  10. JK Ashburn, VA

    What a cop out. It "was negotiated last fall." Yeah, right. Unfortunately, most Americans are idiots and they will believe that BS.

    March 8, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  11. Scott, Tucson

    Of course Obama can change this spending bill, DON'T sign it. Send it back to congress and have them remove all the pork which includes the Obama earmarks that he himself inserted as senator.

    March 8, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  12. ken

    If it's ugly, then why don't you change it? It's not last year's business if OBAMA is the one signing it and the CURRENT CONGRESS the one voting on it. Stop blaming Bush for your problems already.

    March 8, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  13. The Lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    I for one am sick of having a gun held to my head and told that a bigger Government is the only answer to this crisis. To me the Government is more concerned with the interests of special interest groups, Corporate campaign contributors, unions, and lobbyists, then the interests of the American people.

    March 8, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  14. katiec

    Our President and our country face crises never encountered before.
    When are the parties going to unite for our survival? We do not need
    any more pandering, bickering and finger pointing, but working together as politicians. This is what they were elected to do and
    those who refuse to put our country first will be well remembered
    come next elections.

    March 8, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  15. Lauren

    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,"

    THIS IS STUPID. They are trying to tell us they can not STOP the earmarks because it was wrote last year.

    Send a message to Pelosi and stupid politicians on BOTH sides, No more, we will nto take it anymore. If they would have wrote it different, fine, change it before you vote on it.
    How many times are the Democrats going to balem stuff on the last 8 years, how many times will the Republicans fight back. Cmon people,,, drop the dam R and D in front of your name and remember three letters,, USA

    March 8, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. goggle earth girl

    Howard Stern said it best,guess whos the "fill in the blank".

    March 8, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  17. Robert

    I do not believe that President Obama couldn't have a meeting with 'out of control' Pelosi and tell her to get a grip and get rid of the pork in the bill. Done. Who is running things here – Pelosi or Obama? I think the answer is obvious!

    March 8, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  18. johnrj08

    Obama doesn't just have to contend with the right-wing ideologues in Congress. He also has to work with the various shades of democrats, some of whom are just as dogmatic and self-promoting as any Republican. The idea that a president is going to change decades of political habits in his first 50 days in office is ridiculous. This is a process that is taking place during a national emergency. Compromise is ON BOTH SIDES has been essential to get anything done at all. One of the compromises that Obama has had to deal with is earmarks, which is crack cocaine to senators and representatives. It will take time to detox and rehabilitate them. The reason it has never worked before is because past leaders didn't have the stamina or vision to pursue it and work past obstructionists. The resistance to change we're seeing in the 'good old boys' in Congress should surprise no one. They are the hypocrites whom this article should be going after. Identify them. As John McCain said, "Make them famous".

    March 8, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  19. cnnnewser

    Then why sign the bill?

    March 8, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  20. slink

    This makes sense to me. Choose your battles wisely. The Obama admin is doing 10 million things to clean up the Reaganomics mess. The earmarks constitute 1% of the spending bill. It's not a big item, not even close. Any administrator knows some things are worth letting go, and working on again when you are in control of the process from the ground up, which Obama was obviously not. The silly comments above are from desperate people, on the defensive, looking for dumb excuses to blame Obama for what he really had no control over.

    March 8, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  21. Mark, B'ham., Al.

    This is Obama's Spending Bill! He has broken another promise and is trying to blame Bush for it. If it was negotiated last fall whdid the COngress"LEAD BY DEMOCRATS" not present it to Bush who they want to blame for it? America knows why since Bush would have vetoed it on its way to the White House. This spending bill is a liberals wet dream.

    March 8, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  22. Portland, OR

    That's the most pathetic excuse I've ever heard.

    March 8, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  23. Gerald F.

    It does seems rather incredulous that Peter Orszag use the words: "Can't C hange It". Can't? Or is this more of a question of Won't Change it? I agree with Jk Ashburn( from Va).'s comment: Cop Out. (If I may quote you).

    March 8, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  24. Michael

    Lets get real here they republicans, democrats and the presedient should work to get the bill right and stop the bickering. Having said that can anyone point me to a bill that was perfect? Does the current leadership deserve some critisim may be so but the fact is President Bush lead us into the current crisses and has put the american people in a bad way for a long time his legacy will cast a long shadow. Republicans and Democrats must fix this situation sooner rather then later and lets move on.

    March 8, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  25. Tony in Maine

    Consider this – John King, who led the charge against Orszag and Obama is a bobblehead with an hour or two a week on CNN. Orszag is Director of OMB and Obama is POTUS.


    Not that King doesn't have a right to be rude by interrupting his guests in mid response, but should he? Imitating O'Reilly and Limbaugh? I can think of better ways to be taken seriously.

    March 8, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
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