Mitt Romney on Friday proposed a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s spending priorities in a speech to a conservative group that also heard from his beleaguered Republican presidential rival, Herman Cain.
For the second day in a row, Romney pressed for an extensive program of spending cuts that he said would slash $500 billion from the federal budget. Romney’s program, outlined to a Washington gathering sponsored by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, includes a proposal giving future recipients of Medicare a choice on opting into the existing federal retirement program or purchasing their own health insurance with a federal stipend. The idea is bound to be controversial, but Romney argued that President Obama already has reduced Medicare benefits as part of his new health care law.
Romney reiterated many of his plans for cutting federal programs, but didn’t just talk about ways he would save money. “I will reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts,” he said. “Any savings that we can find in the core defense budget we will redirect to rebuild our Navy and our Air Force, to add active duty soldiers and sailors and to provide the care that our veterans so richly deserve."
He gave his fiscal plans a religious spin. "There are some who are going to argue that fiscal responsibility is heartless and immoral,” he said. “No. What's heartless is to imperil our children. And what's immoral is to imperil the strength of the nation that was created by God and preserved by His hand."
Turning one of President Obama’s 2008 campaign slogans against him, Romney told the crowd: "I'm sure you noticed, the president has been traveling across the country trying to get to get the people of America to support his new, half-a-trillion-dollar stimulus bill. He keeps telling people: We can’t wait! To which I say: ‘Yes. We. Can.’ "
Obama’s campaign responded with a statement criticizing Romney’s economic plan, saying it will place “a great burden on the middle class and the elderly, and instead of asking all Americans to do their fair share, it continues to offer special breaks for large corporations, millionaires, and billionaires,” said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt.
Shortly after Romney spoke, Cain addressed the group, winning a more boisterous ovation. Cain’s speech came shortly before a lawyer for one of the women who has accused him of sexual harassment issued a statement providing further details about the complaint. Cain did not address the controversy but he did comment on his connection to the Koch brothers, wealthy financiers who have backed Americans for Prosperty and his campaign. Cain called David and Charles Koch his "brothers from another mother" and the crowd roared approval.
Cain headed off to Houston, where he and fellow GOP presidential candidates plan to stage a debate in the style of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas on Saturday. Romney left for an evening fundraiser in Philadelphia where he reportedly is expected to rake in $300,000. His campaign also is releasing a list of new endorsements by state leaders, including Alan Novak, former chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, and Brian Tierney, former publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.