Obama promises budget reform, no earmarks


Days before he presents his first budget, President Barack Obama Tuesday night pledged to restore accountability to the budgeting process and cut outdated programs.

“This budget looks ahead ten years and accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules — and for the first time, that includes the full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price,” Obama told a joint session of Congress.

He added that his proposed 2010 budget will would end no-bid contracts in Iraq, as well as eliminate education programs that haven’t worked. He also touted his administration’s line-by-line review of the federal budget and agency management in a quest to eliminate useless programs.

“As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we’re starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade,” Obama said to applause from both sides of the aisle.

He also informed Congress he expected the budget to contain no earmarks just like the recently passed economic stimulus package, which brought laughs and hisses from the Republican side of the House chamber. Republicans have contended that the stimulus contained too many pet Democratic projects and not enough tax cuts.

“I’m proud that we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important national priorities,” Obama said.

Much of his speech addressed the state of the economy as well as the failure of the Troubled Asset Relief Program to hold banks accountable for public money they received. He said banks will be made to account for how taxpayer dollars have resulted in more lending, freeing up stalled credit markets. He also called on Congress to change the regulatory system he said allowed the economy to sink so low.

“And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude never happens again, I ask Congress to move quickly on legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory system. It is time to put in place tough new common-sense rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive and innovation and punishes short cuts and abuse,” he said.

Obama received an overwhelming welcome for his first address to Congress as president. Two others received a particularly rousing welcome as well: Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, weeks removed from pancreatic cancer surgery, and Chesley Sullenberger, captain of US Airways Flight 1549 that landed in the Hudson River in January.


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