WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Wednesday laid out a plan to cut $4 trillion from the federal deficit over the next 12 years, but the region's freshman Republican lawmakers say the proposal won't get their support.
Obama wants to save $400 billion in the Pentagon's budget over 12 years. He also wants to continue slashing domestic spending, even beyond the cuts he has been forced to accept by House Republicans.
But a main tenet of his deficit reduction plan is to reset tax rates for the wealthiest Americans to 1990s levels, a nonstarter for most every Republican in Congress.
"Mr. Obama has had that wrong all of his political career," Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said during a series of votes.
"The best way to get more revenue into the treasury is to reduce tax rates, create incentives and allow the American people to go out and create real wealth in the private sector," he said.
The region's lawmakers labeled the speech campaign rhetoric and accused the president of using "scare tactics."
"People are scared. They don't need the leaders here scaring them. They need hope," said Diane Black, R-Tenn., in a Capitol Hill news conference with Republican Party leaders after the speech.
On Friday the House is expected to vote on the Republican fiscal 2012 budget that includes massive changes to Medicare and Medicaid, coupled with dropping the highest tax rate for individuals from 35 percent to 25 percent.
Democratic leaders are praising the president's speech, saying it paints a stark contrast with Republican priorities ahead of the 2012 elections.
"You know you weren't going to sit by and see the budget balanced on the backs of seniors and have millionaires get $200,000 tax cuts and seniors pick up the tab," said John Larson, D-Conn., Democratic Caucus chairman.
The president also called for finding hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare savings, but didn't provide specific policy ideas.
Obama asked Congress to create another commission to exhaustively examine entitlement reform, but Republicans are dubious because the administration has yet to sponsor the findings of a similar commission last year.
"Whenever he has commissions look into things he seems to disregard them anyway," Fleischmann said.
Republicans feel the wind at their backs after getting the president to agree to nearly $40 billion in extra cuts for this year's budget, which they are expected to pass today.
GOP freshmen now see themselves as defining the current debate in Washington.
"I think there's hope just in the sense that for the first time in a long time we're not talking about controlling spending or freezing spending, we are talking about cutting spending," said Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.
"So I would say that when people wonder if we've accomplished anything, I'd say clearly we have just by the dialogue," he added.
Contact Matt Laslo at 202-510-4331 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MattLaslo.