Debt panel could ‘derail’ Obama’s jobs drive, union chief warns

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Monday that a proposal by Democratic members of the “supercommittee” could undermine President Obama’s jobs campaign. 

On a conference call with reporters, the leader of the nation’s largest labor federation said the White House has made job creation the “No. 1 priority” in recent weeks by pushing Congress to pass legislation and issuing executive orders meant to boost the economy.

But a reported proposal from the majority of Democrats on the supercommittee to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion, partly through cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits, would only undercut the president’s jobs message, he said.

“This can do nothing but to confuse and derail the progress that has been made,” Trumka said.

The Democratic plan contains $1.3 trillion in tax hikes, and roughly $500 billion in cuts to entitlement programs over the next 10 years. The plan also contains the entirety of Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill. 

Trumka said there would be an executive council meeting at the AFL-CIO Monday to discuss how to respond to the deficit proposal from supercommittee Democrats.

“If we have to drop temporarily our campaign for jobs to pick up and to fight for, to protect, our social safety net, we will continue to do that,” Trumka said.

The AFL-CIO chief said he was surprised that Democrats on the deficit panel proposed cuts to social programs. 

“I have personally talked to members of that committee and told them that this was the wrong direction to go in,” Trumka said. “So the question was, was I surprised? Yes, I was surprised to see some of the suggestions coming out of the Democratic side.” 

The labor leader noted that the AFL-CIO’s state affiliates pick which candidates to endorse in congressional races. But he said anyone who votes for cuts to social programs would likely risk the support of unions come next election.

“This is the one of things that will be considered when we do endorsements,” Trumka said. “Although I have a tough time envisioning us endorsing people who actually voted for major cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”