Republicans Object to Russia Ploy

Yesterday, congressional Republicans were suddenly enlivened and — in the spirit of change — unloaded on President Obama and his cabinet members. For the first time, House Republicans were encouraged to take the president on directly.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) yesterday in the Senate hearing on the Obama Budget unloaded on Geithner’s false premise that the deficit is all the fault of Republicans’ and the Bush administration. Grassley didn’t leave out Geithner’s role in TARP as head of the New York branch of the Fed, either.

It’s about time somebody said it with an accompanying PowerPoint chart (and setting aside for a moment the irony of Turbo Tax-cheat and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner admonishing companies for not paying their fair share of taxes): The more Grassley spoke, the more Geithner squirmed.

Using the chart, Grassley hammered the facts that the deficit President Obama inherited is the only real bipartisan product to come out of Washington in many years. “It is true that President Obama inherited a big deficit,” Grassley said. “We on this side don’t dispute it. But, to say it was bequeathed solely by those on our side is misleading. Here is a chart… In 2007, we entered a period of divided government. The Democratic Leadership assumed control of the Congress. Unless I’m missing something, all of the fiscal policy in the period of 2007 and 2008 was the product of a Democratic Congress and a Republican President.”

And Grassley didn’t stop there. He said serial tax evader and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner had a personal role in it: “And Mr. Secretary, as the head of the New York Branch of the Federal Reserve, you were a key player in creating the Troubled Asset Relief Program. A good chunk of the big deficit and debt is attributable to that policy. I point this out to set the record straight, so that we can constructively tackle the large fiscal problems we confront together.”

And another from the kudos file, House Republican leader John Boehner is reported in Roll Call yesterday as having told the House Republican caucus to respectfully but directly hold the president responsible in their statements for his egregious budget:

“At a closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference on Wednesday, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — while cautioning against acting disrespectful — urged his colleagues to freely criticize the president on his budget proposal, according to sources in the room.

“There’s no point in ‘triangulation’ when it comes to this budget. It’s the president’s budget. His name is on it,” Boehner told Republicans. ‘It’s a bad budget, and we have a responsibility to tell the country that. We can do it respectfully — but we can do it, and we must.’”

Amen, Mr. Boehner. Amen.

Obama on Tuesday protested reports that there was a quid pro quo offer made to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to kill America’s proposed missile defense system in Europe in exchange for Russian assistance in preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. In legalese that immediately brings to mind the Clinton administration parsing during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Obama gave this non-denial denial:

“What I said in the letter was that, obviously, to the extent that we are lessening Iran’s commitment to nuclear weapons, then that reduces the pressure for — or the need for — a missile defense system,” Obama said. “It was simply a statement of fact that I’ve made previously, which is that the missile defense program, to the extent that it is deployed, is designed to deal with not a Russian threat, but an Iranian threat.”

In Washington, it still depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

Missile defense systems are defensive in nature and do not distinguish between country logos but are designed to take out the missiles of all those who would launch them at us or our allies whether they’re Russian, Iranian, North Korean, Pakistani, Chinese, or any other.

House Republicans sent a letter to Obama yesterday asking for a clarification of his position and warned against relying too heavily on Russia’s cooperation to accomplish prevention of a nuke-free Iran. From the letter:

“Russia’s actions, particularly in Eastern Europe, give us little confidence that they can be relied upon to follow through with such a commitment. Over the last year, as you know, Russia has pursued a divisive policy to re-exert its Soviet-era sphere of influence. During this time, Russia invaded Georgia, intimidated other nations from joining NATO, and threatened to target Eastern Europe with nuclear missiles should the proposed European missile defense sites be built. Further, amidst a global economic crisis, Russia has disrupted shipments of natural gas to Europe for the second time in three years. Most recently, Russia used financial incentives to persuade Kyrgyzstan to deny the U.S. access to its Manas military base in order to support coalition operations in Afghanistan. Given these events, we seriously question reliance upon Russia’s support for a common approach on Iran or missile defense.

“Iran has clearly indicated they have no intention of halting their nuclear or ballistic missile programs, and their recent actions substantiate this point. Last month, they launched a satellite into orbit using dual-use, long-range ballistic missile technology. Last weekend, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that Iran has enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. Two weeks ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency found that Iran underestimated by a third how much uranium it has enriched and noted that Iran has a total of 5,600 centrifuges — an increase from the 3,800 listed in a November 2008 report — despite three rounds of United Nations Security Council sanctions.”

The letter was signed by 47 Republicans: John Boehner (OH), Eric Cantor (VA), Mike Pence (IN), John M. McHugh (NY), Michael Turner (OH), Robert B. Aderholt (AL), Todd Akin (MO), Michele Bachmann (MN), Spencer Bachus (AL), Rob Bishop (UT), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Roy Blunt (MO), Kevin Brady (TX), Dan Burton (IN), Mike Coffman (CO), Mike Conaway (TX), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Mary Fallin (OK), John Fleming (LA), Trent Franks (AZ), Phil Gingrey (GA), Louie Gohmert (TX), Kay Granger (TX), Jeb Hensarling (TX), Duncan Hunter (CA), Steve King (IA), John Kline (MN), Doug Lamborn (CO), Don Manzullo (IL), Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (CA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Jeff Miller (FL), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Pete Olson (TX), Joseph R. Pitts (PA), Mike Rogers (AL), Mike Rogers (MI), Tom Rooney (FL), Jim Sensenbrenner (WI), Pete Sessions (TX), John Shadegg (AZ), Bill Shuster (PA), Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA), Joe Wilson (SC), Rob Wittman (VA)