Dem leaders: No break before budget deal

Anne Wernikoff

House Democratic leaders are upping the pressure on Republicans this week to secure a budget deal before the end of the year.

Although budget negotiators are charged with reaching an agreement by Dec. 13, the talks have limped along with little progress, leading to widespread speculation that the debate will be pushed until next year.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Democrats say the delay would be a mistake, arguing that the sooner a deal is solidified, the better it will be for consumer confidence — and therefore the broader economy — around the end-of-the-year holidays.

"We will not vote to adjourn until such time that we have addressed the critically important issues on our agenda," Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, warned Thursday during a press briefing in the Capitol. "Among those is the budget conference, the unemployment insurance, the farm bill, the [Medicare 'doc fix'], tax extenders and, yes, we ought to deal with comprehensive immigration reform and ending discrimination in the workplace, as well."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) echoed that message.

"We need to have a budget as soon as we possibly can," she said. "We don't have to drift into next year."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee and a negotiator in the budget conference, piled on.

"No budget, no vacation," Van Hollen said, tweaking the "No budget, no pay" slogan trumpeted by Republicans earlier in the year as they pressed Senate Democrats to pass a budget bill. "We should not be adjourning as a Congress in mid-December until we have completed work on the budget."

The warnings are largely rhetorical, as the majority Republicans can easily adjourn for the year without Democratic support. Still, the Democrats are hoping for a political win by highlighting the House's inactivity on a long list of legislation that's been passed by the Senate this year.

They're running out of time. The House on Thursday adjourned for a 10-day Thanksgiving recess, leaving only eight days on the GOP's legislative calendar when they return.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that he's hopeful the negotiators will reach a deal by the Dec. 13 deadline. If they don't, he added, GOP leaders are prepared to move a short-term continuing resolution at current spending levels — which includes the sequester cuts — to prevent a government shutdown.

That idea will likely face resistance from Democrats, who don't want to extend the sequester a day longer than they have to.

Hoyer warned that continuing the sequester "will hurt our country, will hurt our economy and will put at risk our national security."

"We have to prevent a second year of the sequester from taking effect in January," he said.