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. markens

    obama for life. he is the best president ever.

    March 8, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  2. cnnnewser

    List all the republican pork in the bill.... I dare you!

    March 8, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  3. check book facts

    I can I open an offshore hide my money from being taxed?Why should I pay taxes when the rich never pay?These are some of the questions I would like Orszag to answer.

    March 8, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  4. RZ

    This is one bill that Obama can just say no to and set the tone he campaigned for during the election. Yes, most of the problems we have were primarily the result of Bush’s incompetent leadership. Now, however, is the time for Obama to show truly strong leadership by bucking both parties and getting some fiscal discipline back into our government. Most of country with the exception of the Limbaugh crowd is behind him. This IS the time for change.

    March 8, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  5. Libs are Goofy....

    To everyone who believes the spin the BO admin is putting on this, please move to France....... soon.

    March 8, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  6. JRiv

    how about a line by line veto on some things?

    March 8, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  7. Mike

    The recent change in Washington is a joke.

    Obama and the Democrats are not in touch with the severe situation at hand.

    Regardless of what ANY previous administration did wrong, what is happening now is not change, is not for the better, and is going to lead America into a crisis that will be worse than it had to be.

    The Sad Days (or dare I say years) of America are here.

    March 8, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  8. Chris from Savannah

    Veto the thing! The government can operate on a stop gap bill that holds budgets at last year's levels. Go back and fix it. The bill was written before the current crisis. Lets get it right.

    March 8, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  9. John G

    So President "Yes we Can" can't do something...uh-oh

    March 8, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  10. Willy Brown

    You got to love the blame the other guy crowd. Democrats in Control since 2006 latest funding bill full of pork on both sides and the blame everybody but me democrats still try to lay it on W. One term and #44 will be out of office thanks to the blame game crowd.

    March 8, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. Just another American

    If any of you had actually LOOKED at this spending bill and read it, I think the question you'd be asking is, if we republicans are soooo against spending and pork, why are about 70% of the earmarks Republican. And please don't say the Dems made us do it. We're already looking foolish in the eyes of the American people. To the republican leadership, Stop tearing down our country and let come up with REAL solutions. Giving tax breaks to the top 2% or 3% is not putting more money in MY account.
    BTW, Obama has been in office less than2% of the total time Bush had the reigns. Are we that afraid he might succeed and prove to the country we are a bunch of idiot naysayers.
    I was a Republican until the GOP completely lost it's mind in Bush's second term.

    March 8, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  12. jeff of Peoria

    they knew this since Nov 4th. Give me a break.

    March 8, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  13. KFR

    Why don't you people who want to constantly bash Obama see if you can change this spending bill and remove all the pork and get the facts on Obama's earmarks. I feel like a lot of people are listening to republicans and not understanding politics or even wanting to as long as they have Obama to blame and can forget the last 8 years.


    March 8, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  14. M. Felder

    I agree with Nancy Pelosi, we should use a scorched earth strategy here with the Republican. I think President Obama should remove the earmarks from the bill and make both the republicans and democrats justify their earmarks in the budget. The way the bill is set up now, the republican can complain all they want, knowing that the democrats will push forth the bill without the republicans voting for the bill and the republican will still benefit. We should call the republican bluff!

    March 8, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  15. HelloooOOOOO

    Again, this bill has "inheirited" stuff in it, its not what Pres Obama wanted, but since was "baked" in last fall before he took office, isnt much he can do about it...ask yourself, WHO baked that stuff in it last fall before you jump all over Pres Obama..half of that junk belongs to the very same REPUBLICANS who are now crying foul !!!!!!

    March 8, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  16. joshua, Baltimore

    Wow Slink. Finally a person who post a comment that actually make sense. Obviously something had to be done like now. They were argueing over that same bill when Obama was still the elect. I think Obama did more work as the president-elect than Bush did in the last two months he was in office. Bush was mia his last two months. Get a clue you desperate righties posing as conservatives.

    March 8, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  17. Joe Rego

    The recovery will start to take shape at the end of this year. But before then, we have to expect the dow to go down to between 2500 to 3000, and a great recovery will start to take hold.

    March 8, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  18. Hope

    How do you expect Obama to veto a bill which is not at his desk, the republicans are blaming the president for not vetoing the bill but it is not at the presidents desk, can the legislators just do their job McCain and Cantor should make sure the legislative process removes the pork then give Obama a clean bill, do your job Cantor.

    March 8, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  19. The Voice

    I don't see the Republicans pulling their earmarks and then voting against it. They leave their earmarks, vote against it and then say the Democrats voted for it and Obama is overspending.

    Americans are not that stupid. The GOP does not love this country, only power and money.

    March 8, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  20. Carolyn Greene

    I am sooo tired of the minority party doom and gloom politics and the news media "let's panic" until I could lose my lunch. The public is not as stupid as you might think. No matter how many times and ways you say it, the American public is not going to give up on the President! So stop crying and start cooperating!

    March 8, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  21. Mike

    After Obama was elected I said to myself "okay, here he is. Godspeed. Best wishes. But we have nothing except spending with no direction. Where is the leadership? Where is the direction? We all no where th problem is but the Administration is intentionally not fixing it so as to nationalize as much as possible and rip apart the American spirit. Something needs to happen fast. I guess I was hoping beyond hope that this was somehow going to be different. I am not a right wing guy. I lived in Germany for over 15 years and socialism sucks.

    March 8, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  22. CA

    Great interview going on right now John!

    Press him on the earmarks as related to senate/house votes.. something stinks here and i think if you guys actually scratch a bit, you'll have a great (bi)partisan expose...

    somebody please ask the hard question.. doesnt matter if you ask orszag or any member of the republican house.

    nobody on the hill wants to be exposed for the earmarks as related to back of the house policy votes!!

    Somebody go for it.. please!


    March 8, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. M. Felder

    Let's be clear here, it is not the earmarks in any bill that is putting a burden on our country, it is our out of control healthcare spending and military spending that is driving this country into the poor house. 8 Billion dollars compared to the $300 billion healthcare bill appears to be the thing we need to get under control. Both Republicans and democrats believe in earmark, it provide additional aid to states whose state government is unable to provide for their communities. When I think about John McCain and his dislike of earmarks and how he is always bragging about not ever requesting an earmark, now I understand why he doesn't because the other republican senator from the state of Arizona request enough earmarks for the both of them.

    March 8, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  24. Texas Teacher

    I trust that those "earmarks" are going to make JOBS for Americans who are out of work! As long as they make jobs... I'm happy! Ridiculous to not consider that would be the case! Obama has only been in office about 6 weeks... and the Republicans are already praying that he fails? Really?

    March 8, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  25. Mark

    Ok, Obama was elected based on change. When will this change be implemented? So far, he is unwilling to LEAD this government on a path that both parties can or will support. It takes tough choices and it starts on DAY 1. This congress cannot be trusted to do the right thing when they are able to right their own checks and the president is willing to give them the green light by not forcing them to make changes via VETO Threat. Politics is not for those with a lack of will to get things done. If you want to be a great president (like Reagan) you have to lead and be willing to let the chips fall where they may.

    March 8, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
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