The key dilemma facing President Obama and Congressional Democrats is that Republicans are wholly unwilling to support any new job-creating spending projects — even projects with bipartisan support — unless they’re offset with spending cuts or savings elsewhere in the budget.
Thus, Democrats on the new joint deficit Super Committee will seek more than the $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction they’ve been tasked with finding, in order to help offset some of those costs.
“All of us would like to set as a target for ourselves even more than $1.5 trillion,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who’s also the top House Democrat on the Budget Committee, told reporters at a Tuesday Capitol press conference.
He and other Democrats point out that economic growth will reduce deficits simply by reducing unemployment rolls and increasing tax revenues. But when taken on their own, Democrats’ favored jobs proposals (infrastructure spending, or temporary tax cuts) add to the deficit, and will thus make it harder, mathematically for Democrats to reach the Committee’s goal of $1.5 trillion in budget savings.
Committee member Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) agrees with Van Hollen, and says he’d be willing to put key progressive programs on the table if it gives Congress more running room to shore up the economy now.
“It’s incumbent upon the Congress and the government not to make things worse,” Becerra said. “I’m looking at the last six months and I’m not seeing how job growth has come from some of this cutting of services, but again I’ll be open to it so long as…there’s proof that the proposal will lead to job growth and deficit reduction.”
Both Becerra and Van Hollen want new sources of tax revenue to be part of the mix as well. But Republicans won’t accept that lying down, and cutting future spending enough to finance stimulus projects now will be tough without taking bites out of entitlement programs and other government services.
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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.