OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Members of Oklahoma’s delegation said Tuesday they would work with President Obama and other members of Congress to bolster the nation’s faltering economy, but they also criticized a $787 billion economic stimulus package and other proposals to deal with the crisis.
Reps. Tom Cole, Mary Fallin, Frank Lucas and John Sullivan, all R-Okla., commented after Obama told the nation and a joint session of Congress that while the economy may be weak and the American people’s confidence shaken, "The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation."
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., released a statement on his Web site.
Cole said he agreed with Obama that the GOP and the Democrats must work together to solve the country’s problems.
"Pushing past partisanship is going to mean taking time to work towards solutions that can create jobs, bolster the economy and create a better future for our children," Cole said. "In short, overcoming the challenges facing our country is going to take more than just lip-service. It is going to take sweat equity."
But Cole also criticized what he called an increase in government spending and taxes.
"… unfortunately, the President has already made it known that he intends to let the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire next year. Letting those cuts phase out, while raising other taxes and pouring more money into expensive government programs is antithetical to the ideals of fiscal responsibility."
The stimulus package includes billions of dollars in tax cuts and tax credits, but Obama wants cuts for those earning more than $250,000 a year to be allowed to expire.
Fallin said she applauded Obama for focusing on the economy and on the budget deficit, but of the latter, she said she had concerns "’… with the ‘solutions’ this president and his administration continue to offer, mainly a reduction in military spending and an increase in taxes on small businesses.
"This would weaken our military in a time of war and stifle growth during a period already defined by economic hardship."
Sullivan noted that Obama has pledged to cut the federal deficit in half during his first term, but said the president doubled the deficit in one day by signing the stimulus bill into law.
"Government is growing, agencies are expanding and new government programs are a dime a dozen as the Democrats focus on spending in the 111th Congress," he said.
Administration aides have said Obama inherited a $1.2 trillion deficit and that it will grow to $1.5 trillion by Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
Much of the deficit increase will stem from emergency spending designed to contain the economic crisis and assist banking institutions, officials have said. Once that spending stops, the deficit would shrink automatically.
Inhofe said he had no doubt congressional Democrats would be big spenders, but with the stimulus package, Obama has "proved to be the same …"
"Americans must understand that even if Obama were to halve the deficit by the end of his term, it would still be more than double the average deficit from the last eight years. The current deficit currently stands six times that average, and President Obama has begun his term by sending an already high deficit into the stratosphere."
Lucas also was critical of the stimulus plan, saying that the plan and a proposed omnibus appropriations package will mean an 80 percent increase in government spending over last year.
"And we must all remember nothing is free; the American people will be paying for these massive spending increases for generations to come," he said. "During these times of financial hardship, we must all practice fiscal restraint — including the federal government."
But Lucas was encouraged by Obama’s efforts to get bipartisan input and support.
"The American people are resilient, hard working, and innovative," Lucas said. "I have complete confidence that we can come through these current financial problems a stronger and more economically sound nation. I thank the President for his speech this evening."
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