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Utah senator calls Democrats’ budget plan ‘insulting’

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sen. Mike Lee, one of the first-term budget hawks who rode a wave of tea party support into Washington last fall, on Wednesday dismissed Democrats' budget proposals as "insulting."

The Utah Republican, appearing on "America's Morning News" radio program, said, "To cut around the edges just a little bit, to say, OK, let's lop off a percentage point or two, it isn't enough, it isn't nearly enough."

"Because within the next 15 to 20 years, just the interest we're paying on the national debt is going to eclipse almost every federal program in size," he told hosts John McCaslin and Amy Holmes.

The Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate are at odds over federal spending for the remaining seven months of the 2011 fiscal year, with GOP lawmakers pushing for almost $60 billion in new cuts from current spending levels.

Democrats have countered with an offer of $4.7 billion in new reductions.

"It's ... insulting to our children," Mr. Lee said. "The future of our children is being mortgaged right now by a big government that's spending money that they have yet to make. This isn't right. It's not American. We fought a war over taxation without representation, and this is a really vicious form of that."

The 39-year-old lawmaker burnished his budget-cutting credentials last week with a successful effort, along with Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, to get senators to go on the record on a new balanced budget amendment. Mr. Lee's non-binding "sense of the Senate" proposal fell two votes short, 58-40, of the 60 needed to pass, but the effort drew support from 10 Democrats.

That result showed Democrats are moving toward the fiscal sensibilities of tea party-backed lawmakers like Mr. Lee, but the transformation isn't happening fast enough, he said.

He said he doesn't want to see a goverment shutdown, but he wants Republicans to "hold their ground in support of massive budget cuts."

As a freshman in the Senate, he said he hasn't been surprised by the partisan politics on Capitol Hill, but he expressed disappointment in President Obama.

"I did not expect to see this level of reckless disregard for our national debt problem by the White House," he said.

Asked about fellow Utah Republican Sen. Orrin G. Hatch's bid to win re-election in Utah in 2012, Mr. Lee, who had never run for office before winning the seat last fall, spoke briefly about the difficulties of challenging an incumbent.

"I've been on the receiving end of that, when we've had other incumbents backing fellow incumbents," he said. "And it's no fun to be a challenger in an environment where it starts to feel as though the incumbents have all teamed up to block any outsiders from coming in. My plan for the time being is to stay out of Senate races in my own state."

Mr. Lee last week endorsed another tea party favorite, former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz, in his bid to win the Republican nomination for the seat of retiring Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

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