House Democrats want deficit panel to find ‘significant’ new revenues

House Democrats on Thursday released a plan that they said would reduce the deficit without killing jobs.

The policy package — consisting of recommendations from the senior Democrats on 16 top committees and sent to the leaders of the deficit-slashing supercommittee — calls for significant new revenue hikes to reduce the deficit.

Democrats say their caucus supports larger deficit reductions than the $1.5 trillion in cuts the new congressional supercommittee is charged with finding.

ADVERTISEMENT
“The American people overwhelmingly agree that significant revenues must be included in any plan,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a letter to the supercommittee that accompanied the proposals.

The call for new revenue revisits the summer debate over raising the federal debt ceiling, in which President Obama and Democrats demanded that higher taxes on business and the wealthy be imposed in exchange for spending cuts Republicans want that would hurt the poor and middle class. In the end, the deal signed by Obama included spending cuts but no new taxes.

“We need to create jobs [and] we need to increase the revenue stream because we have people not working, not because we'll raise taxes,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Thursday in the Capitol.

The new legislative package, he said, “reflects the need to help the economy to grow now, while setting a path to reduce the deficit over the longer term.”

Party leaders touted the package as something both parties can rally behind.

“Many of the ideas contained here have had bipartisan support,” Pelosi said. “Hopefully, they will be well received by the [super]committee.”

Savings accrued by drawing down forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, were included in the GOP budget passed by Republican leaders earlier in the year. Democrats stress in the plan that those savings are going to help bring down the deficit.

Several proposals offered by Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), ranking member of the House Administration Committee, would reduce government printing costs — an idea backed by many Republicans. And the creation of new spectrum auctions — offered by Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) — has also attracted some bipartisan support.

Still, many of the suggestions are based on Democratic proposals that party leaders have pushed for years, without much success.

Waxman, for example, is pushing to allow Medicaid to pay the drug costs for patients also eligible for Medicare — a proposal shot down by centrist Democrats and Republicans during the healthcare reform battle of 2009 and 2010.

Rep. Edward Markey (Mass.), the leading Democrat on the Natural Resources panel, wants to eliminate subsidies to the nation's largest oil companies — a move Republicans oppose. And Rep. George Miller (Calif.), senior Democrat on the Education and Workforce Committee, is urging an infusion of funding for the nation's schools to prevent hundreds of thousands of teachers from being laid off, another idea that does not have GOP support.

Democratic leaders said they are pushing for a balanced approach to deficit reduction in which wealthy individuals and companies contribute.

“We cannot afford to place the burden of deficit reduction only on the backs of working families and certainly not on the most vulnerable in our country,” Hoyer said.

Boehner's office did not immediately respond Thursday to questions about the Democrats' latest policy package.

Among the Democratic proposals, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, argues that foreclosure prevention is “the key to the nation's economic recovery.” And Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.), senior Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, is sure to raise some eyebrows with his proposal to legalize Internet gambling — a bipartisan idea that would generate nearly $42 billion in federal revenues over a decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Created as a part of August's bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling, the budget supercommittee is charged with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade. If the panel fails to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts, automatic reductions of that amount will kick in, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. The panel has until Nov. 23 to report its suggestions.

Democratic leaders on Thursday reiterated their calls for the supercommittee to aim much higher than their $1.5 trillion charge. They argue that the nation's fiscal crisis demands a strategy that would trim $4 trillion from projected deficit spending over the next 10 years.

The cuts, Pelosi said, “will either happen by the work of this committee, or it will happen by sequestration.”

“I hope it will happen by the work of this committee,” she said.

This article was updated at 6:27 p.m.