House and Senate Republicans emerged from an early morning meeting in a closed House chamber Wednesday morning to unveil their much-awaited budget alternative.
Roughly a hundred GOP men and women descended the East Capitol steps in a light drizzle to announce their product to the American people.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined their colleagues, entering from the side, and addressed the gathered reporters.
After ripping the Democratic budget as too expensive, Boehner said that "Republicans in the House will offer a better solution that'll be less on spending, less on taxes and a lot less on debt for our kids and grandkids."
But there was no budget. "Do you guys have a formal budget yet?" asked a reporter.
"Mr. Ryan will outline the Republican budget at 10:30 this morning. And yes we do have it," replied Boehner, referring to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).
A silence followed, with reporters apparently unsure what to ask next.
Democrats, in contrast, had plenty to say, with Obama officials mocking the Republican document as a sad April Fools prank.
"If you expected a GOP alternative to the failed policies of the past that got our country into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, then I have two words for you: April Fool's," said Kenneth Baer, OMB communications director.
Another administration official added on background: "We read the Ryan budget alternative -- or what we know of it -- in the Wall Street Journal. It appears that this is more of the same failed policies that got us into this mess."
Meanwhile, Austan Goolsbee, an economic adviser to the president and increasingly active administration spokesman, told MSNBC: "Well, look, I thought it was most appropriate that this thing came out on April Fools' Day because this thing is the biggest April Fools' Joke and cruelest that we have had in years. If you look at what they are doing...they are calling for putting in a multi-trillion dollar additional tax cut for the highest income Americans, they are now talking about privatizing Medicare turning it into a voucher so that they can cut it substantially. That's not the reform of an entitlement -- it is the gutting of a program."
Baer's and Goolsbee's remarks are far sharper than the generally inclusive approach the Obama White House took with the House GOP during the crafting of the stimulus. The change in tone may be owed to the fact that the president was unable to persuade a single Republican in the House to vote for that recovery package. Mainly, however, the alternatives that the GOP is offering for the budget -- entitlement reform, $4 million in tax cuts primarily for the wealthy, a freeze on discretionary spending for five years on everything except national defense and veterans health care -- are diametrically at odds with where the president stands.
That said, Goolsbee pivoted from his condemnation of the GOP to note potential points of agreement, telling MSNBC: "There are a few areas where they seem to be looking in the correct direction. And that is following some of the reforms that [OMB Director] Peter Orszag and others in the administration have been putting forward and some health care reforms. But in a lot of areas it is problematic."
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