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Obama Commits to Blue Dog Budget Priority

President Barack Obama on Thursday affirmed his commitment to pay-as-you-go budget rules, a key priority of fiscally conservative House Blue Dog Democrats who are wary of Obama’s spending plans.Obama offered his backing for the rules during remarks at the White House as the administration unveiled its fiscal 2010 budget.“One important step [toward fiscal discipline] is restoring the pay-as-you-go rule, and I’ve called on Congress to do exactly that,— he said. “This rule says, very simply, that Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere. This is the principle that guides responsible families managing a budget. This is the principle that helped transform large deficits into surpluses in the 1990s.—Obama has privately assured Blue Dog Members that he backs PAYGO, but his statement Thursday adds a public seal of approval he would be hard-pressed to renounce, even as he pursues ambitious plans to overhaul health care and back environmentally friendly programs.Obama also focused on 121 programs targeted to be terminated or curtailed at a savings of some $17 billion, saying the process of wading through the budget to find such savings will continue.As an incentive, Obama said agencies that find further savings in their budgets will be permitted to keep some of the money to invest in other programs.With skepticism rampant about Congress’ willingness to follow through on proposed cuts, Obama urged lawmakers — without singling out either party — to change their ways.“At this moment, at this difficult time for our nation, we can’t accept business as usual,— he said. “We can’t accept anything less than a government ready to meet the challenges of our time.—Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a statement praising Obama’s budget efforts — and touting her own initiative to find savings.“Just as President Obama directed his Cabinet to identify specific budget cuts in their departments, I have asked House committee chairs to search out areas of possible savings in the departments, agencies, and programs under their jurisdiction,— Pelosi said. “House committees have already conducted 163 hearings, which will help inform our efforts as we review the President’s proposed budget cuts and work with the Administration to achieve additional savings.”

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