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2 Feb, 2010 22:16

Obama administration officials try to sell budget

US President Barack Obama’s secretaries of defense and treasury are defending his $3.8 trillion budget to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner faced off against lawmakers in Washington D.C. over the economy. It was round two for Geithner. The economic leader is fresh off of a lashing from congressmen last week over the taxpayer bailout of AIG, where some asked Geithner why he shouldn't resign.

Geithner declined to give a press interview at today's hearing, but he was smiling again. He was there to sell President Barack Obama's $3.8 trillion budget. This time, it was not Congress giving him a hard time, but activists.

"Where's our money?" asked activist Tighe Barry of Codepink. "Where did it all go? We know Wall Street's been getting money hand over fist."

As Geithner spoke about a new jobs bill and financial help for small businesses in the budget, protesters aside, he faced a kinder, gentler crowd.

"Appropriately, the budget focuses on job creation," said Senator Max Baucus (Democrat-Montana).

"I welcome your constructive tone," Geithner said to the lawmakers.

Also on Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed a bigger budget for the military, despite a freeze on discretionary spending in other areas. He, too, didn't take much heat.

"I very much appreciate the cuts you've made which you mentioned…but you can still clean up a lot of unecessary programs in the Pentagon," said Senator James Webb (Democrat-Virginia).

Secretary Gates replied he would look into it.

Despite the pomp and circumstance of the cameras, most of the action from the hearings was actually outside their doors, where security told the activists they couldn't be inside.

"We were told we’re not allowed to hold up any signs, even if they’r not blocking public view," said activist and Codepink founder Medea Benjamin. "I guess the chairman found it disruptive. I guess they don’t like the public input."

And while President Obama's secretaries defended the budget, they didn't hear talk much about the $1.56 trillion dollar deficit it would produce, or how they would have to borrow a third of each dollar they spend next year.