WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama challenged the conservative “Tea Party” political movement and its Republican supporters on Monday to be specific about what government spending they would cut if they had the power to do so.
Obama defended his administration’s spending to boost the U.S. economy and said most economists agreed that such “emergency steps” were not a problem for long-term debt and deficit issues.
The Tea Party, a loosely organized conservative political movement, has gained traction with some American voters in part by criticizing Obama for too much government spending.
“The challenge, I think, for the Tea Party movement is to identify specifically what would you do. It’s not enough just to say ‘get control of spending,’” Obama said during a town hall-style meeting shown on CNBC television.
He said the group should be prepared to say it was willing to cut military veterans’ benefits, for example, or Social Security retirement funds and Medicare health insurance payouts to the elderly.
“What you can’t do, which is what I’ve been hearing a lot from the other side, is saying, ‘We’re going to control government spending. We’re going to propose $4 trillion of additional tax cuts and then magically somehow things are going to work,’” he said.
Obama’s Democrats are fighting to retain control of the House of Representatives and Senate in U.S. congressional elections on November 2.
Tea Party-backed candidates have won Republican primaries in a handful of U.S. states and are facing Democratic opponents in the November elections.
Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Will Dunham