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. Janet B

    I just watched the interview of Mr. Orszag. Thank you Mr. King for pointing out that by the President signing this bill with wasteful spending HE IS RESPONSIBLE ! That type of thinking could be applied to so many issues these days and it is just wrong. Your example about the gangs was right on! Thank you for being persistant.

    By the way do the people from the White House get told prior to going on TV how many times they need to use a phase or a word during their air time????

    March 8, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  2. Joyce in Indiana

    I am a supporter of our President, and I disagree with this choice.

    That said, I understand that the President must choose his battles, or he will end up sounding just like the GOP–against everything and out of good ideas. THAT is not the way to get things done in a system of government as complicated as ours.

    March 8, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  3. Texas Teacher

    Orszag wants us to believe that Obama CAUSED this mess in the 6 weeks he has been in office........... Republicans are pure as the driven snow... the last 8 years mean absolutely nothing! Seriously?

    March 8, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  4. Joey B

    I'm glad that John King is jealous of the success of someone younger than him and will probably sleep better at night by trying to belittle him on his show... Come on, is it not time for GPS yet? This interview has been pretty bad and I actually do not think it was the guests fault at all. It was almost as bad as Lemon's interview with the guy who wrote the book on the psychology of 'money madness' yesterday. As for this stimulus bill, does America understand that there are THREE branches of government? Or the fact that Obama is not a dictator and cannot simply tell Congress exactly what can and cannot be in the bill? I'll tell you all right now where we clearly need to put more funding, directly into educating our youth on the government that runs this nation. Hopefully after that happens we will not have to watch CNN try to make America forget about concepts such as checks and balances. Even some of these seemingly stupic pieces of pork tacked onto the bill WILL STILL HELP KEEP PEOPLE EMPLOYED!!! I understand most people cannot understand why it is important to give the state of Georigia $200K for blueberry production, but chances are that will help keep or even create new jobs! I understand the need to be critical when it comes to spending so much money, but seriously America, think one step ahead for a change!

    March 8, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  5. gary davis



    March 8, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  6. Jenn, Philadelphia

    Well, the Iraq war is "baked" in from the last administration, why can he change that and not this bill? It's just a cop-out. I believe the democrats have already told the President that he can't "tell Congress what to do" and has no control over earmarks. If he can't get his own party to work with him, how is he supposed get the republicans on his side.

    March 8, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  7. S Callahan

    Our first President, George Washington said:
    Government is a dangerous servant and fearful master.

    God said do that which is good and he is of God.
    Do that which is evil and he is not from God.

    From what I'm reading absolute power is corrupting absolutely.
    Hang in there Pres. Obama...this is all part of God's plan...
    Look at History...God has never failed yet to intervene where he sees the need to. God's whole purpose is JUSTICE.

    March 8, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  8. aware

    No spine Obama or just naive? Which-ever Americans are not as stupid as you think! 😦

    Fix the spending bill Barack! Walk the talk or resign!

    March 8, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  9. mike

    I am glad to see John King putting Peter Orszag on the hot seat. His limp responses are frustrating to people like myself who lost a good job after 23 years. I am angered as I hear about some of the items in this budget and Orszag's lame sports analogies make him sound naive and out of touch with the problems at hand.
    I voted for president Obama and I am realistic that things cannot be changed over night. But he was the candidate who preached a new day in Washington.
    Perhaps the president should stop campaigning around the country and stay in Washington roll up his sleeves and start the job he was elected to do.

    Sincerely – Mike

    March 8, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  10. gary davis


    March 8, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. Michigan Jim

    "We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way." Barack Obama, November 25, 2008.

    March 8, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  12. D..

    Did I hear this guy say... "next year, when you can hold us responsible". Next year???? Yes. Next year.

    March 8, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  13. Truth Bomb Thrower

    And you 52% thought you were voting for change. SUCKERRRRRRRS!

    March 8, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  14. gary

    obama pelosi and reid these are the reason our country is going down i call them the 3 stooges, but that is insulting to larry moe and curly at least they had talent

    March 8, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  15. Bill

    I have a plan that will box in the no votes in Congress on bills. After the GOP or Dems add in the earmarks and then votes no on the bill then their earmarks come off the bill. This would take care of some of the earmarks.

    March 8, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  16. buy a clue

    You dont have to live in Bham Alabama to be stupid,but it helps.

    March 8, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  17. Bob Johnson

    I'm stuck at home with a broken leg and have seen "State of the Union" for the first time. John King is presenting some very highly biased coverage. I hope he actually reviews his own program.

    It isn't simply who you bring on, but how you treat them and their ideas. Orzag (and Obama) is attacked as a liar, Cantor is allowed to get the closing talking point before King shifts to another topic. Admission by commission is a toxic methodology.

    Was the Brazille/Matlin segment live or an edited presentation? It certainly was not a conversation or a debate or even coherent.

    March 8, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  18. CA

    Everyone needs to get off the actual 'earmarks' that is not what is important here..

    The majority (electoral vote) nation voted for a man who 'stands for something' and by extension extended a nation's sentiment to 'change the way things are done in Washington' < prez said this

    President Obama needs to deliver on what he stands for here and veto this bill.. not because of the earmarks but because of what he (and the nation) supposedly stand for..

    If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything... dont let it happen!


    March 8, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  19. Joey B

    I think it says alot that rush limbaugh has become the voice of the republican party. I for one would love for limbaugh to get his wish and have Obama debate him publically and make him look like the fool that he really is. Republican American, do you folks really think even he beleives even half of the stuff that comes out of his mouth? I had a pastor back in the day at the Lutheran grade school I went to that spoke against a concept he liked to call 'diarrhea of the mouth.' I do no think I ever fully understood the concept until I heard limbaugh speak a handful of times. I can be a conservative shock jock also, just give me a quote from a liberal/democrat and I'll say the exact opposite, reguardless of the topic. Come on Foxnews, why have you not given me my show yet?

    March 8, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  20. Bob Johnson

    When Republicans and your program hype earmarks, about one percent of the total cost of this appropriations bill, as the reason for a Presidential veto, you reveal a position so vacuous that your salary should be halved.

    My nine-year-old grandchild turned to me and asked, "Grandad, is that guy stupid?"

    March 8, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  21. Mike Nichols

    Rome is burning, but John King wants to talk about earmarks and play gotcha politics with Obamas budget director. Maybe next Sunday King can talk about why Obama is considered a marxist, the antichrist, and the destroyer of the stock market by pundit republicans. Or maybe, he could call out Eric Cantor for lying about a high speed rail system from Disneyland to Las Vegas. But then, that would require good reporting.

    March 8, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. judy

    Until the republicians take out their PORK they have NO CREDIBILITY therefore they need to just SHUT UP and quit being the party of IM AGAINST EVERYTHING OBAMA. If you republicains have NO SOLUTIONS go sit at the KIDDY table and let the adults clean this mess up youve made.

    March 8, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  23. German,Irish American

    The gullible, inept, inexperienced, incompetence of Obama and his administration is rapidly becoming more of a threat to America's freedom than Bin Laden could ever have hoped for.

    March 8, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  24. fella from chicago

    Divert attention and keep blaming the Republicans for everything. A year from now it will be Obama's been in office for only 14 months and he's still trying to clean up from the Bush administration, then two years from that the same will be said, etc. Admit it; Obama surrounded himself with the same old gang from Washington with the same old ideas and bad habits. Nothing's changed and nothing will unless its for the worse. God Bless America, God Help America.

    March 8, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  25. gary richard

    As a republican I voted for Obama but this was a serious mistake this man has no leadership ability.This man has no clue to fixed the economy.

    March 8, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
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