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Where do Democrats Stand on the Budget?



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Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on two spending resolutions for the remainder of the year — the House Republican plan ($61 billion in spending cuts) and the Senate Democrat/White House plan ($6.5 billion in cuts). Both votes are expected to fail, and that’s basically the point — to illustrate to lawmakers on both sides that a compromise is necessary. They have until March 18 to iron out deal.

With that in mind, here’s a look at where Democrats stand heading into these votes.

Intransigent leadership:

  • Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat, thinks anything more than the Democrats’ $6.5 billion in cuts over seven months would be literally impossible. “I think we’ve pushed this to the limit” he said on Fox News Sunday. “I’m willing to see more deficit reduction, but not out of domestic discretionary spending.”
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), as you may recall, berated the GOP’s initial plan to cut just $32 billion over the same period — roughly half way between where the two sides are currently — as “draconian” and a “non-starter.”

Tax more, spend more:

  • Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) told reporters last week that Senate Democrats were “close to believing” that they had a plan for further spending cuts. Oh, but he did have one idea: “Show me the money, show me the revenue!”
  • Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) concurred: “I’m greatly disappointed so far in what [the White House has] been advocating, which is basically sort of buying into ‘we’ve got to cut everything out of discretionary.’ The White House is wrong on that… To take revenues off the table is unacceptable.”
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif) has an equally ingenious plan to reduce the deficit — keep on spending: “Nothing brings more to the treasury than investing in education,” she told reporters last week.

Where is the White House?

  • Literally. President Obama said over the weekend that he is “prepared to do more” on spending cuts. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden, who is supposed to be spearheading the budget negotiations, is fleeing the country. More here.
  • Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday: “We have now… met the Republicans more than halfway, at $51 billion and change.”

The intellectual crowd weighs in:

  • The New York Times says Democrats have already cut plenty, and should go ahead and shut the government down rather than make any further concession to the GOP: “If the Democrats try to compromise on even half [of $61 billion], they will be still be doing enormous damage to many programs and threatening a recovery that is starting to show signs of real life,” writes the Grey Lady’s editorial board. “Though Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, called that “outrageous,” Democrats are under no obligation to cut more. As bad as a shutdown would be, heading much further toward the Republicans’ number would do far more lasting damage to the economy.”
  • Demos, a liberal think tank, has actually proposed a second stimulus package worth more than $380 billion. Demos officials claim their spending binge would create 8 million government jobs over two years and reduce the unemployment rate to 4.5 percent.

So where do Democrats stand on spending cuts and deficit reduction? Sen. Jeff Session (R., Ala.), ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, sums up here:

“Still in denial.”
 



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