WASHINGTON -- Fresh from her victory in the Ames Straw Poll, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) had to defend her positions on government spending and economic policy on Sunday. Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Bachmann insisted that her prior eagerness to accept funds from President Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill was not in conflict with her vocal criticism of the legislation.
HuffPost's Sam Stein reported last week that Bachmann not only repeatedly sought stimulus funds from federal agencies, but deployed traditional Keynesian economic rationales to justify her requests, claiming that the funds would create jobs and strengthen the economy. Publicly, by contrast, Bachmann has insisted that the stimulus was an act of "overspending" and "fantasy economics" that hurt jobs.
When asked by Fox News' Chris Wallace about this discrepancy, Bachmann claimed there was no conflict.
"I voted against the stimulus and I was very public against the stimulus. After the stimulus was passed and the money was there, why should my constituents or anyone else be disadvantaged?" Bachmann said.
Bachmann sought federal money to create jobs in her district -- but those practical considerations conflict with her economic message that government spending has in fact hurt the economy and destroyed jobs. Bachmann attempted to sidestep that contradiction by arguing that corruption had diverted stimulus funds to inefficient areas.
Chris Wallace and Bachmann previously had a very public falling out when she last appeared on the Sunday program and he asked whether she was "a flake." Bachmann was offended by the question, and Wallace publicly apologized. He opened the interview on Sunday with another apology, which the congresswoman accepted.
Several other high-profile media observers have questioned Bachmann's understanding of economic issues and her ability to present practical solutions. Last week, former Republican Congressman and current MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called Bachmann "a joke" because she had advocated for defaulting on the nation's debt.
Bachmann openly advocated against raising the debt ceiling to allow the U.S. to continue to borrow, a move that policy experts from both parties believed would lead to default.
Wallace invoked the recent debt ceiling drama, and noted that credit rating agency Standard & Poor's cited political considerations -- including the serious consideration of default among some members of Congress -- when downgrading its AAA credit rating on U.S. debt.
Bachmann claimed she had never advocated for default, but had put a plan on the table that would have denied an increase in the debt ceiling and instead required the Treasury Department to prioritize payments to U.S. creditors, Social Security recipients, Medicare beneficiaries and the U.S. military.
When Wallace noted that doing so would have required defunding a majority of government programs, from unemployment benefits to the FBI, Bachmann suggested that she was not bothered by that prospect.
"Doesn't that tell you how bad off the U.S. is -- the fact that we're overspending to that amount?" Bachmann said.
When asked how she would be able to work with Democrats to reassure markets if she were elected president, Bachmann said she would "work tirelessly" to ensure that the Republican Party picked up 13 seats in the Senate, giving Republicans a filibuster-proof majority to enact her agenda.
"That would send a very strong signal to the market," Bachmann said.
UPDATE: 11:15 a.m. -- In a separate appearance on "This Week" on ABC News, guest anchor Jake Tapper pressed Bachmann on what programs she would cut to reduce the federal budget deficit. Bachmann suggested that Medicare and Social Security would be on the chopping block.
"Right now, we're gonna reform entitlements," Bachmann said. "Medicare, Medicaid, they have to be changed. Why should we continue to run these program the way we did 45 years ago? Systems have changed. We can -- we can make these far more efficient than what they are. Social Security is another program, 80 years old. Why would we continue to run it in the same way we did 80 years ago? Let's modernize it so it's there for people who depend on it."
Social Security was reformed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. The program is funded by payroll taxes on workers and does not contribute to the federal budget deficit. It is currently projected to face no shortfalls in its funding until 2037. Medicare, by contrast, is a significant driver of the federal budget deficit, as a result of the increase in overall healthcare costs.
UPDATE: 11:33 a.m. -- On NBC's "Meet the Press," David Gregory pressed Bachmann on a question asked during Thursday's Republican debate in Iowa about the role wives play in a heterosexual marriage. During the debate, moderator Byron York asked Bachmann whether she was a "submissive" wife, citing a 2006 speech in which Bachmann said she decided to study tax law because her husband wanted her to do so, even though she did not like the subject.
At the time, Bachmann said: "My husband said, now you need to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law. Tax law, I hate taxes. Why should I go and do something like that? The Lord says, 'Be submissive.' Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands."
Gregory played the soundbite and asked, "Is that your view for women in America? Is that your vision for them?"
"Submission -- that word means respect," Bachmann replied.
Gregory said that in his discussions with his own wife, the two words are not equivalent.
"In our house, it is," Bachmann said.
Gregory asked: "His word goes?"
"Well, both of our words go," Bachmann said. "We respect each other. We're a good team together."
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