Republicans gearing up to slam the door this week on a key Obama administration appointment that they say demonstrates the president’s failure to offer serious leadership on the nation’s debt crisis.
The target of the rising conservative groundswell: Heather A. Higginbottom, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.
As with all upper level appointments, the nomination requires the senate’s approval. The vote on Higginbottom’s confirmation is expected to come this week.
“The problem with her nomination is that she is light on experience and did not to a good job of answering questions at her hearing,” Brian Darling, the director of government relations at The Heritage Foundation, tells Newsmax. “The Senate is supposed to protect against cronyism.”
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Sources say Higginbottom has neither formal training, nor direct experience, in either budgeting or finance. She has held several political and management positions, however.
Conservatives complain that by nominating Higginbottom to such an important budgetary post, Obama has signaled a lack of interest in the sweeping reforms needed to stanch the oceans of red ink bleeding from the federal government.
As Deputy Director, Higginbottom would become the No. 2 official responsible for helping the president devise his budget.
Conservatives have been frustrated ever since President Obama proposed a 2012 budget that he said “will not be adding more to the national debt.”
In fact, according to Washington Post fact-checkers and others, there is no year in which, by the president’s own projections, the deficit would drop below $600 billion annually.
By 2021 under Obama’s budget, the newspaper reports, the national debt of the United States would reach a staggering $26.3 trillion -- close to 200 percent of U.S. GDP in 2010.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., took Higginbottom to task last week for her reluctance to reject the assertion by Obama and current OMB chief Jacob “Jack” Lew that the president’s proposed budget would halt the spiraling increase in the national debt.
Republicans say previous OMB deputy directors have averaged over 6 years of direct budget experience.
An excerpt from Higginbottom’s confirmation hearing:
Sen. Sessions: “[The president] has stated… that we will not be adding more to the debt. Is that an accurate statement or not?”
Higginbottom: “What both the director and the president are referring to is –“
Sessions: “No. I ask you, heard by the American people, fairly heard by the American people, is that a true statement or not?”
Higginbottom: “I can’t express how the American people would hear that. What I can say is that of course interest payments on the debt will add to the debt. The point the president and the director have made is that this budget –“
Sessions: “I don’t know what you’re talking about, that interest payment will be added to the debt. President Obama and Mr. Lew have looked the American people in the eye, without any qualifications, without talking about interest payments, and said: ‘We will not be adding more to the national debt. So you ask to assume this important role. I ask you if you stand by that, if you believe that’s accurate?”
Higginbottom: “Senator, I’d like to explain what they’re referring to. Both the president and the director are referring to an effort to ensure that we pay for the programs, the government’s operating costs, as they’re proposed. That’s a concept of primary balance, which I know you and the director have discussed. That notion does not speak to the interest payments. When the president came into office there was a $1.3 trillion deficit. We have to borrow money to pay on that deficit. But what that statement refers to is an effort to –“
Sessions: “Well, could I ask you this question: Did Mr. Lew or the president of the United States, when they made that statement ‘We will not be adding to the debt,’ did they say: ‘By the way, American people, what we really mean is some arcane idea about not counting interest payments that the United States must make as part of our debt. Did they say that?”
Higginbottom: “I’m not sure exactly what they did say, uhm… ---“
Sessions: “Well, if they didn’t say that, would that be an accurate statement?”
Higginbottom: “The interest costs on what we’re borrowing, our deficit, add to the debt.”
Sessions: “Well, you’re correct….”
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