From NBC’s Ken Strickland
It was obvious to most Capitol Hill insiders why President Obama wanted Republican Judd Gregg as a member of his cabinet: He's one of the sharpest money-minds in Congress.
But instead of getting Gregg's counsel within the administration, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner found himself today of the receiving end of Gregg's fiscal conservative wrath.
In a hearing before the Senate Budget Committee Gregg dressed down Geithner with facts, figures, and charts. While always keeping his cool, the exchange was somewhere between a mother's scolding, a drill sergeant's questioning and an attorney's cross examination.
In his opening statement, Gregg politely called the administration's budget forecast a lie. "The argument that it cuts the debt in half in four years is, ahh, is truly spurious," he told Geithner.
President Obama himself gives Gregg's comments a sense of stinging credibility. When the president introduced Gregg as his nominee for Commerce Secretary last month, he said Gregg is known for is fiscal discipline.
"He shares my deep-seated commitment to guaranteeing that our children inherit a future they can afford," Obama said.
Today, the president's compliment of Gregg turned into an attack on Geithner. Gregg said the budget is essentially "putting on our children's backs a debt they can never get out from underneath."
He added pointedly, "I think we're putting at risk not only our children's future, we're clearly putting at risk the value of a dollar and our ability to sell debt."
When Gregg withdrew his nomination, he said he and the administration were "functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy."
Gregg's opening monologue today would indicate that was a gross understatement.
"The argument that this budget doesn't have tax increases [on everyone] is, I think, an 'Alice in Wonderland' view of the budget," he said.
He challenged the budget's math on cutting the debt: "When you take the deficit and quadruple it and then you cut it and half, that's like taking four steps back and two steps forward. That's not making any progress; you're still going backwards."
Gregg questioned why any foreign country would continue to buy up U.S. debt: "Because if I'm in the international marketplace, and I'm looking at this budget, I'm saying to myself, ‘Where's the discipline? Where's the containment?' There isn't any." (more)