By Mike Lillis - 07/25/11 11:55 PM EDT
The head of the House Democratic Caucus pushed back hard Monday against plans to reduce deficits without new tax revenues.
Rep. John Larson (Conn.) said a strategy that relies solely on spending cuts to chip away at the nation’s debt is “just untenable.”
His opposition to a deficit-reduction package absent revenue increases could prove significant, as Republican leaders are expected to need scores of Democratic votes to pass the package.
Larson was quick to note that the tax-revenue hikes supported by Democrats wouldn’t kick in for a few years, allowing the fragile economy some time to recover. “But they’re going to have to be included in any kind of balanced plan,” he said.
A cuts-only strategy, Larson added, “is just untenable.”
The remarks seem to put Larson at odds with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who last week outlined a plan to slash deficits by $2.5 trillion without increasing revenues. Pelosi’s plan relies solely on cutting discretionary programs, scaling back the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and making unspecified reforms to the “non-health mandatories,” Pelosi said, according to Talking Points Memo.
“We’re willing to bite the bullet and make serious cuts in discretionary spending,” Pelosi told TPM. “That’s a non-revenue path. I don’t like it at all, but it doesn’t go near our [major] entitlements.”
Larson on Monday renewed the Democrats’ near-blanket opposition to entitlement benefit cuts, saying House leaders are united on that front.
“That’s something that Democrats have always stood solid behind,” he said.
This week, House Republicans and Senate Democrats are both pushing plans to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and rein in soaring deficits with trillions of dollars in spending cuts. Neither proposal, however, includes concrete revenue-raisers.
The Republican plan, unveiled Monday afternoon, would create a bipartisan, bicameral committee charged this year with proposing deficit reducers between $1.6 trillion and $1.8 trillion. The committee could technically include revenue increases as part of its plan, but panel Republicans aren’t likely to approve such a proposal.
“We appoint members to the committee, and we’re not appointing any Republicans who will vote for tax hikes,” a GOP aide told National Review Online on Monday.
The House could vote on the GOP bill as early as Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unveiled a plan of his own Monday that would slash spending but leave tax revenues alone.
“It would not raise any new revenue or make any cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security,” Reid said on the chamber floor Monday.
The Senate is expected to begin consideration of the proposal early this week.
The Treasury Department has given lawmakers until Aug. 2 to raise the debt limit before the government begins defaulting on its existing obligations.
A key sticking point between the House and Senate plans revolves around the longevity of the debt-limit hike. The Republicans’ plan would raise the $14.3 trillion cap by $1 trillion, allowing the government to pay its obligations until early next year, when Congress would have to revisit the issue.
The Democrats are pushing a $2.7 trillion increase to see government spending through the end of 2012 — and next November’s elections.
“A two-stage plan is a nonstarter,” Reid warned Monday.