Van Hollen: 'Too early to say' if most Democrats will back budget deal

Anne Wernikoff

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Thursday morning that it's unclear if a majority of House Democrats will back the bipartisan budget deal.

In an interview on "The Bill Press Show," Van Hollen said, "I think it's too early to say" if most House Democrats will vote yes.

Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said members of his party are outraged that House Republicans are planning to adjourn without addressing unemployment benefits. Some on the left are upset that Democratic leaders did not insist that an extension of unemployment insurance be included in the budget agreement.

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The budget bill, which would pare back sequestration cuts, has attracted opposition from conservatives and liberals. The measure, however, is expected to pass the House on Thursday.

Van Hollen noted that Democrats have pushed for a vote on unemployment benefits this week as part of the Medicare physician reimbursement measure known as the "doc fix." The House Rules Committee rejected their motion on Wednesday, he added.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated he will tackle unemployment payments on the floor early next month. Van Hollen praised Reid's commitment but said House Democrats are pushing for the bill now.

"I've got to emphasize this is something that we should do before we leave," Van Hollen said. "We should do it now. We will continue to push in the House."

He also said Democrats will oppose the GOP's expected move to adjourn on Friday.

Asked why benefits should be extended with the jobless rate at a five-year-low, Van Hollen said the 7 percent unemployment level is still too high and should not be accepted as the new norm.