House Democrats and liberal groups were livid Thursday at news of a debt-limit deal reportedly in the works between President Obama and top House Republicans that would achieve $3 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade without the immediate inclusion of any fresh tax revenue.
“Any deal that slashes programs for seniors and working families while doing nothing to make the rich and corporations pay their share is a total non-starter and Democrats in Congress should rule it out immediately,” MoveOn.org executive director Justin Ruben said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “The Democratic base did not work night and day to elect Democrats so that they could cave to Tea Party extremists who are intent on gutting the social safety net millions of us fought to establish and protect.”
Ruben added that anything less than a debt-limit deal that includes both spending cuts and tax increases “would represent a betrayal of everything Democrats stand for.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) were set to huddle with Obama at the White House at 5:30 p.m. Thursday for their latest meeting aimed at working out a debt ceiling deal ahead of an Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury.
At a lunchtime meeting with Senate Democrats, Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew heard an earful from members angry that the White House would agree to deep cuts to entitlement programs without receiving any concessions from Republicans on tax revenue.
House Democrats also expressed frustration Thursday afternoon at the latest debt-limit development, which White House officials and leadership aides from both parties have maintained does not yet constitute a deal.
“It would concern me greatly if these folks – the tea party group – have been able to convince the president to go along with a deal that basically gives them everything they want but yet and still takes away from those who are our most vulnerable,” said. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
“There’s a big difference in the two camps,” Cummings said of Republicans and Democrats in the debt-limit debate. “The people that I’m talking about, when you’re talking about Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security -- and I’m sure they’re all mixed up in there in this $3 trillion – those are people, a lot of whom are in my district, who have no alternatives. They’re not the guys who own the planes; they’re not the ones who fly off to Paris for vacation. These people are struggling.”
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said that it was too early to pass judgment on any purported deal since no details were available yet. But he drew a connection between the current debt-limit debate and the battle over extending the Bush-era tax cuts during Congress’s lame duck session late last year.
“Everyone enjoyed the Oprah Winfrey tax cut – ‘You get a tax cut, you get a tax cut, everybody gets a tax cut,’” Scott said. “And we pointed out that in the first few months of the next year, where we are now, we would decide how to pay for the tax cuts. ... Many of us predicted that if you vote for the tax cut, you will be paying for it with cuts in Social Security and Medicare and other important programs.”
Scott also said that any deal that would cut as much as $3 trillion over the next decade but not include any fresh revenue would be catastrophic to many programs championed by Democrats. He said that House Republicans’ original proposal for the fiscal year 2011 funding resolution would have cut $1 trillion over ten years and included many decreases that were considered anathema to Democrats.
“The initial bill, which was a $1 trillion-size bill, just go through and look at the kinds of things that were in there,” Scott said, noting that the proposal included cuts to energy assistance programs for low-income seniors, Head Start and Pell grants as well as funding for community health centers and air traffic controllers. “That’s to get to the first trillion. How do you get to the second trillion?”
The latest turn in the closed-door debt-limit negotiations comes as the Senate prepares to vote on a “Cut, Cap and Balance” proposal that passed the House earlier this week. Reid had originally announced that the Senate would vote on the measure on Saturday. But the vote could be bumped up to Friday, although Senate rules dictate that the Friday vote would technically be on a motion to table the measure, not on a motion to end debate.