President Barack Obama was “long on rhetoric but very short on actual policy” when discussing his plans for the economy in the State of the Union Address, said U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, who chairs the House Subcommittee on the environment.
“The president offered no suggestions as to how he is going so solve the debt and deficit, with the one exception that again the president appears to be a one-trick pony here: it’s taxes, taxes, taxes,” the Maryland Republican told Newsmax TV. “There were no specific cuts.”
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Harris said the president noted he was going to look at Medicare along the lines of what was recommended by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.
“Well, I've got to tell you, Simpson-Bowles didn’t mention Medicare," said Harris. “The president, who apparently hasn’t even read the Simpson-Bowles report, went on national television in front of the nation yesterday, and honestly misled the American people.
Harris, as leader of the House Committee responsible for oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency, also blamed Obama for recreating history when it comes to the environment. In his speech, Obama pushed for expanding the green energy sector, and using some of the country's oil and gas revenue to create an energy and security trust.
“The president hasn’t done anything but attempt to inhibit oil and gas production in this country over the last four years,” Harris argued. “This is the rooster taking credit for the dawn; this president has done everything he can to slow down hydraulic fracturing, to slow down the recovering from shale of oil and natural gas, and now he’s trying to take credit, and worse than that, he’s actually going to attempt to tax the industry. He had no role in the expansion of that industry, and he's going to tax the industry to pay for his programs.”
Harris also disagreed with Obama statements claiming that oil and gas production is up and the United States is importing less foreign fuel than in the past 20 years.
“The president knows full well that oil and gas production on public lands has not grown,” said Harris. “In fact, the entire boom is on private lands, where thank goodness the federal government has no say or little say in the regulation. If the federal government did, as the president wants to, we would have inhibited even that growth over the last four years.”
Harris said he also does not understand why Obama has not yet approved the Keystone Pipeline project, especially since Nebraska, the last state that needed to approve the pipeline, has given it the green light,
“I don’t know what’s holding him back,” Harris said. “I suspect he may be waiting to see the first quarter’s Gross Domestic Product to see whether we in fact are in a recession. As you know, the GDP shrank last quarter. If it shrinks this quarter, it’s officially a recession. Everybody knows it feels like a recession, but it would officially be a recession and that might be the stimulus he would need to consider Keystone.”
Harris also took issues with Obama's statements on healthcare. During the speech, the president touted the Affordable Care Act, saying it is already helping healthcare costs.
Obama also talked about some items Republicans supported in the past, such as ending taxpayer subsidies to drug companies, means testing for wealthier senior Medicare recipients, and a pay-for-treatments type model for healthcare.
“The president tried to say that his preventive care measures, somehow, have brought down the costs of healthcare overall in the United States,” said Harris. “Mr. President, preventive measures don’t pay now. They pay 20 years and 30 years in the future. So it’s actually completely made up to suggest that preventive care measures — and remember, those rules and regulations haven’t even been written by HHS and yet he’s already taking credit for that bring down healthcare costs.”
Harris said the costs may be coming down because of the bad economy, not due to anything Obama has done. “In fact,everything the president has done has led to increased healthcare premiums.”
The representative also does not believe Obama reached out much to Republicans during his speech.
“The president wants to keep the (tax) rates the same and close loopholes, Harris said.
“That’s not tax reform, that’s a tax increase. So the president should be honest with the American people. He’s not talking about tax changes or tax reforms, he’s talking about tax increases to fund the vast new spending programs that he mentioned yesterday in his speech."
Harris does think there are two ways he can work with the White House, even if he disagrees with most of what was said in Tuesday’s speech. “The president acknowledged support for the state of Israel and the importance of maintaining peace in the Middle East, (which is) obviously, a bipartisan effort,” he said.
Obama also broached the idea of public-private partnerships to work on infrastructure problems, another plan Harris said he can support. In the past, Obama thought the problems could be solved through stimulus spending, but now realizes that is not possible, he said.
“I would hope he would reach out to the private sector and form the public-private partnerships necessary to develop and to upgrade our infrastructure, critical infrastructure: our ports, our roads, our highways, our water systems,” Harris said. “These can all be public-private partnerships and I would welcome that.”
Meanwhile, Harris said the president can still bring the parties together, but it will take work.
“The first thing the president has to do to cement any relationship with the House is that he has to produce a budget,” said Harris. “He has to show us what his plan is so that we can contrast it with our plan and begin the negotiation of where we compromise and come up with a budget for the nation.
“Until the president shows the good faith of producing a budget, an honest budget, I don’t know where the compromise is going to come. The House is tired of negotiating with ourselves. We have to have the president come through, as the law states, and show us his budget.”
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