- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2009

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing Barack Obama to fulfill a campaign promise to repeal tax breaks for high earners and to investigate possible wrongdoing in the Bush administration - positions that the president-elect recently has been reluctant to address.

Mrs. Pelosi also said she would be willing to consider cuts in entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare in order to instill greater fiscal responsibility in the federal government.

The California Democrat, who appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” said she supports repealing President Bush’s tax cuts on workers who make more than $250,000 well before they expire at the end of 2010. Mr. Obama had promised to repeal the tax cuts during his presidential campaign but since has since backed off that pledge, signaling he would be willing to simply let them expire.

“I don’t want them to wait two years to expire,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “We had campaigned in saying what the Republican Congressional Budget Office told us: Nothing contributed more to the budget deficit than the tax cuts for the wealthiest people in America.”

Mr. Obama last year said in his stump speeches that any tax increases would be targeted at Americans making more than $250,000 annually.But with the slumping economy showing few signs of bouncing back soon, the president-elect in recent weeks has shown reluctance to raise taxes for even upper-income people.

Plans for a $825 billion stimulus package submitted Thursday by House Democrats - and backed Mr. Obama - include $550 billion in spending measures and $275 billion in tax cuts.

The price tag of the package is more than a $775 billion plan floated by Mr. Obama earlier this week, and the Democrats’ tax cuts are less than the $300 billion he initially proposed.

The Obama presidential transition team has suggested that repealing the Bush tax cuts would not be an immediate priority.

“Our overall focus is going to be on increasing spending,” Lawrence H. Summers, Mr. Obama’s pick for director of the National Economic Council, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Just what the timing will be [on the Bush tax cuts] is something that is going to be worked out going forward.”

Mrs. Pelosi said on Fox News that she would like to launch investigations into the Bush administration’s handling of the anti-terrorism program and whether the Bush administration broke any laws when it fired a group of federal prosecutors.

“I think that we have to learn from the past, and we cannot let the politicizing of the - for example, the Justice Department - to go unreviewed,” she said. “Past is prologue. We learn from it.”

But Mr. Obama has said he is unlikely to authorize broad inquiries into Bush administration programs.

“We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions and so forth,” the president-elect said Jan. 11 on the ABC News program “This Week.” “When it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future, as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.”

As far as entitlements were concerned, Mrs. Pelosi said “everything was on the table” regarding possible changes and cuts.

“We are committed to pay as you go, not heaping mountains of debt on our children,” she said. “The only thing we didn’t want to put on the table is eliminating Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Mr. Obama last week said he would hold a “fiscal responsibility summit” next month to look at ways to reform Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other entitlement programs, saying that ensuring costly entitlement programs are run more efficiently is vital to the nation’s long-term economic stability.

“What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further,” he said.

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