President Obama delivered on Tuesday one of his toughest attacks on Republicans, criticizing the House-passed budget as "thinly veiled social Darwinism" and the Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney for calling it "marvelous."
The harsh words, coming as Republican primaries were going on in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, were a pre-emptive strike designed to frame the debate over spending and taxes. The Republican budget would shrink annual $1-trillion-plus deficits by cutting domestic spending, including Medicare and Medicaid.
"By gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that's built to last -- education and training, research and development, our infrastructure -- it is a prescription for decline," Obama told a group of news editors. He said Democrats would "make sure that every American knows about it."
Republicans disputed Obama's math and accused him of playing politics instead of trying to solve problems.
"Like his reckless budgets, today's speech by President Obama is as revealing as it is disappointing," said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the GOP budget's author.
"While others lead by offering real solutions, he has chosen to distort the truth and divide Americans in order to distract from his failed record."
Obama's sharp attack was reminiscent of his critique of Republicans' first budget a year ago, just after they won control of the House. The White House had invited Ryan and two other top GOP lawmakers to sit in the front row at George Washington University to hear Obama say their budget would "sacrifice the America we believe in."
The first question that Obama received Tuesday at the Associated Press luncheon was: Why can't the two sides stop fighting and work together? The president blamed Republicans for being "a party that will brook no compromise" on raising taxes.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Obama is "all about speeches. He's not about action."
Contributing: Susan Page
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