As the House prepares to hold a largely-symbolic vote Tuesday on a measure to “cut, cap and balance” the federal budget in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, House Democrats sharply criticized the move, which they argued violates basic democratic principles.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, charged at a news conference Tuesday morning that the measure was an “anti-democratic” attempt to “manipulate” the Constitution because it would prevent future congresses from balancing the budget in the way that they see fit.
“This is not a garden-variety balanced budget amendment,” Van Hollen said, adding that Democrats were willing to “have a conversation” about the idea of a constitutional amendment but that the version currently being offered by House Republicans is unacceptable to his party.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) and Vice-Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) also voiced their opposition to the legislation, on which the House is set to vote Tuesday evening, calling it an “unserious” move because the bill has little chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.
“We’re waiting. We have never left the table. ... Maybe once we get past this vote, Republicans will get serious,” Becerra said.
House Republicans on Tuesday touted their planned vote on the “cut, cap and balance” plan, reiterating their argument that the fact that the GOP is willing to vote on raising the debt ceiling at all amounts to a concession by their party.
“The president has said now for once he wants a balanced approach,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a Capitol news conference. “Well, guess what – in ‘cut, cap, & balance,’ he does get a balanced approach. He gets his increase in the debt limit of $2.4 trillion. What we get are real cuts in spending, and real reforms in place that will make sure that this problem never, ever happens again.”
Both sides continue to leave the door open to a “Plan B” being crafted by bipartisan Senate leaders that would allow the debt ceiling to be raised and shift the onus of doing so onto President Obama and congressional Democrats.
Larson said Tuesday that his members still “don’t have all the details on it” but that the fact that the Senate is taking a step toward resolving the problem remains a positive sign.
Both parties’ leaders spoke at separate news conferences after their weekly caucus meetings. At the Democratic press event, leaders distributed “Protect Medicare Now,” “Protect Social Security Now” and “Protect Medicaid Now” cookies to reporters. The treats were brought to the caucus by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and were made by Democratic communications veteran Marla Romash, who is launching her own “political cookie company.”