From NBC's Ken Strickland
It was obvious to most Capitol Hill insiders why President Obama wanted Republican Judd Gregg as a member of his cabinet: He's one of the sharpest money-minds in Congress.
But instead of getting Gregg's counsel within the administration, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner found himself today of the receiving end of Gregg's fiscal conservative wrath.
In a hearing before the Senate Budget Committee Gregg dressed down Geithner with facts, figures, and charts. While always keeping his cool, the exchange was somewhere between a mother's scolding, a drill sergeant's questioning and an attorney's cross examination.
In his opening statement, Gregg politely called the administration's budget forecast a lie.
"The argument that it cuts the debt in half in four years is, ahh, is truly spurious," he told Geithner.
President Obama himself gives Gregg's comments a sense of stinging credibility. When the president introduced Gregg as his nominee for Commerce Secretary last month, he said Gregg is known for is fiscal discipline.
"He shares my deep-seated commitment to guaranteeing that our children inherit a future they can afford," Obama said.
Today, the president's compliment of Gregg turned into an attack on Geithner. Gregg said the budget is essentially "putting on our children's backs a debt they can never get out from underneath."
He added pointedly, "I think we're putting at risk not only our children's future, we're clearly putting at risk the value of a dollar and our ability to sell debt."
When Gregg withdrew his nomination, he said he and the administration were "functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy."
Gregg's opening monologue today would indicate that was a gross understatement.
"The argument that this budget doesn't have tax increases [on everyone] is, I think, an 'Alice in Wonderland' view of the budget," he said.
He challenged the budget's math on cutting the debt: "When you take the deficit and quadruple it and then you cut it and half, that's like taking four steps back and two steps forward. That's not making any progress; you're still going backwards."
Gregg questioned why any foreign country would continue to buy up U.S. debt: "Because if I'm in the international marketplace, and I'm looking at this budget, I'm saying to myself, 'Where's the discipline? Where's the containment?' There isn't any."
In his withdrawal statement last month, Gregg said, "I expect there will be many issues and initiatives where I can and will work to assure the success of the president's proposals."
The budget doesn't appear to be one of them.