Flanked by all the members of his Cabinet (except yet-to-be-confirmed Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius) President Obama convened his first official Cabinet meeting this afternoon -- in appropriately enough, the Cabinet Room.
“I emphasized to this Cabinet that we have had to take some extraordinary steps in order to shore up our financial system and to deal with an unprecedented economic crisis. As a consequence, we've had to spend a significant amount of money,” the president admitted, adding that it was “the right” and “necessary” thing to do.
However, the president said, the government has an obligation to run efficiently and spend every taxpayer dollar wisely.
“So one of the things -- messages that I delivered today to all members of the Cabinet was, ‘As well as you've already done, you're going to have to do more.’ I'm asking for all of them to identify at least $100 million in additional cuts to their administrative budgets,” he said.
Obama also added that in the next few weeks, that they will cut at least 100 current programs in the federal budget.
“None of these savings by themselves are going to solve our long-term fiscal problems,” the president admitted. “But taken together, they can make a difference and they send a signal that we are serious about how government operates.”
The president expressed concern about a “confidence gap” with the American people.
“We've got to earn their trust. They've got to feel confident that they're dollars are being spent wisely and I have every confidence that the team that I put together is going to be able to deliver on that efficiency and productivity in the weeks, months, and years to come.”
Isn’t $100 million just a drop in the bucket, one reporter asked.
“It is and that's what I just said," the president said. "None of these things alone are going to make the difference but cumulatively, they make an extraordinary difference because they start setting a tone. So what we're going to do is line by line, page by page, $100 million there, $100 million here, pretty soon, even in Washington, it adds up to real money.”
Republican leaders deemed it ironic that the Obama administration is touting $100 million in spending cuts, but pushing a budget that would add to the national debt.
“I appreciate the efforts to save millions by identifying unnecessary or duplicative government spending. But let’s not forget that at the same time they’re looking for millions in savings, the president’s budget calls for adding trillions to the debt,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement, per ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf. “The nation’s debt is at its highest level ever, but under the administration’s budget, the amount of public debt will double in five years and triple in 10.”
-- Sunlen Miller