- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

President Obama on Tuesday offered a pitch for his first budget as making long-term investments in the nation’s health and warned those who say he’s doing too much that the fiscal problems his budget tackles can’t be ignored.

“This budget makes the investments that will lead to real growth and real prosperity,” Mr. Obama said. “Investments that will make a difference in the lives of this generation and future generations because it makes us more productive.”

Joined by Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, both Democrats and chairmen of their chambers’ budget committees, the president outlined the health care, education and environmental elements of his budget plan.

“There are those who say the plans in this budget are too ambitious to enact,” Mr. Obama said. “The challenges we face are too large to ignore. To kick these problems down the road for another four years or another eight years would be to continue the same irresponsibility that led us to this point… . I didn’t come here to pass on our problems to the next president or the next generation. I came here to solve them.”

He said that, just like the American people, he has to address the whole fiscal picture and not just focus on fixing Wall Street.

“They don’t have the luxury of choosing to pay either their mortgage or their medical bills,” he said. “They have to confront all these problems, and as a consequence, so do we.”

Mr. Obama said he welcomes ideas from Republicans and Democrats.

“We don’t need more points scoring — we need more problem solving,” Mr. Obama said, urging critics to be willing to propose “constructive alternative solutions.”

“‘Just say no’ is the right advice to give your teenagers about drugs; it is not an acceptable response” to the budget proposal, he said.

Mr. Obama said the lawmakers at his side “have been leaders in efforts to get these entitlement programs under control” and said they share his commitment to health care reform.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Conrad hinted new Congressional Budget Office figures expected in the next few weeks “may make this even tougher.”

Mr. Conrad told reporters after the event that Congress is on the right time line to get a budget through.

“The president is a wise man, and he understands very well the legislative process, and he understands the give and take that will be necessary to get a result, and we’re going to get a result, and it will be a good one for the American people,” he said.

When detailing the education elements of his budget, Mr. Obama said the three men had something in common: “None of us were born with a silver spoon in our mouths, but we got a great education.”

It was the start of a busy day for the president, who was planning multiple St. Patrick’s Day celebrations with Irish leaders at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

The president and Mr. Spratt each wore green ties.

“Conrad didn’t get the memo,” Mr. Obama said, teasing his former Senate colleague, who was not wearing green.

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