Markey: GOP wants short-term debt deal to stifle economy

A senior House Democrat on Monday alleged that Republicans want the short-term debt increase in order to kill the economic recovery and blame President Obama for high unemployment.

House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Edward Markey (D-Mass.) on Monday said that a two-stop approach being weighed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to force another debt-ceiling vote next year was a "cynical" ploy to keep a cloud over the economy.

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“The Boehner approach really intends to have another debate next year that is just as big and that’s their point. A big debate this year puts a cloud over the markets and the economic environment, and another debate next year will do the same thing to our economic recovery,” he told a news conference. “So it’s a very cynical, regain-the-majority strategy that puts the entire economy at risk.”

He went on to say the showdown over the size of the debt limit increase will be “because of their plan to not end [the crisis] now, but to have it end sometime before the next election to basically make it very difficult to have an effective economic recovery.”

Markey spoke at a press conference held to highlight the flaws Democrats see in the 2012 Interior and Environment appropriations bill moving to the House floor later Monday. It is by far the most controversial of the 2012 spending bills considered so far, and contains 39 “anti-environmental” riders, according to Democrats.

At the same press conference, House Appropriations Committee ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), who has a history of cordial relations with GOP appropriators, distanced himself from Markey’s remarks.

“I honestly think they believe what they are saying, that cutting spending will grow the economy. … I do not think their intent is to harm the economy,” he said when asked to comment on what Markey said.

Dicks emphasized that the effect of GOP cuts will nonetheless harm the economy, and said more attention needs to be paid in the ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling to short-term stimulus measures to create jobs.

Dicks declined to say whether he could accept a debt-ceiling compromise that does not contain revenues. Such a plan is being floated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), according to sources.

At the same press conference, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) signaled his strong opposition to any debt-ceiling plan, such as the Reid draft, that does not contain revenues.

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“There has to be give on both sides. If you are only going to cut and put off revenue raisers for later, it is not a balanced approach and you certainly aren’t going to generate jobs,” he said.

Dicks would not comment on what level of discretionary spending should be set in the deal for 2012, other than to say he hopes the level will be higher than the $1.019 trillion the House has temporarily adopted pursuant to the budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

In many ways, this discretionary number is the most important aspect of the debt-ceiling compromise, since it is the least likely to get reversed in the future by Congress. Dicks said he hopes the debt-ceiling deal will avert a third government shutdown crisis after Sept. 30, when appropriations bills need to be reconciled.

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