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Democrats in Budget Dilemma

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House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen has been meeting with Members for six weeks to try to build party unity as the budget debate nears.

Aides said that if Democrats opt to produce a budget, they would use it to show they share a different set of priorities to the Republicans. Democrats would likely accuse Republicans of failing to include proposals that would raise revenue while also making a push to return to Clinton-era tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. Democrats would also advocate eliminating special-interest tax breaks.

This isn’t the first time Democrats have struggled over their budget strategy. Last year, the Democratic majority spent months trying to decide whether to bring a budget blueprint to the floor and ultimately decided against doing so. The situation was complicated by the fact that then-Budget Chairman John Spratt was facing a tough re-election battle. Republicans targeted the South Carolina Democrat for failing to bring forth a budget — and he ultimately lost his re-election bid.  

The Democratic leadership’s indecision notwithstanding, the Congressional Black Caucus plans to present a budget plan of its own.

Chairman Emanuel Cleaver said he hoped the budget the CBC puts out would become the Democratic Caucus proposal. The CBC historically has put forward its own budget.

The Missouri Democrat, who met with Vice President Joseph Biden on Tuesday to discuss the budget and other issues, said he has yet to meet with Democratic leadership on a spending blueprint.

“We’re going to put out our budget no matter what, even if the Democratic Caucus puts out a budget,” Cleaver said.

“We welcome the rest of the Democratic Caucus to join us with speaking with one voice behind our budget,” Cleaver said. “We would like for our budget to become the Caucus budget. We’d like for it to become the Republican budget.”

“There are Members, not a small group of Members, who are going to sign onto our budget,” Cleaver said.

Republicans are continuing to blast Democrats for failing to produce a budget last year. 

“After their historic budget failure last year, it would certainly be ironic if Washington Democrats chose to do one this year,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said in a statement. “We certainly hope they will, and that they will join us in listening to the American people, who want us to cut out-of-control Washington spending and tackle the big issues like protecting programs like Medicare or Social Security.”

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