Feb. 6, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

For Democrats, Choice Between No Deal or Bad Deal?

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, seen with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, said the Democratic Caucus is dedicated to a "big, bold and balanced" deficit reduction plan.

Those close to Pelosi insist that House Democrats are not rooting for the super committee to fail, pointing to her many public statements and noting that the Caucus would like the panel to include economic stimulus proposals. With the 2012 elections near full-throttle, many view a potential super committee deal as the last legislative train out of the station. House Democrats last week pushed for the panel to take up jobs initiatives such as those President Barack Obama has proposed.

"She has never said that House Democrats want sequestration," a Democratic leadership aide said. "These are all ridiculous accusations from people who are unaware of the Democratic Caucus position, which she clearly spelled out."

Even if Pelosi hasn't publicly said so, Democrats are clearly weighing whether sequestration is a better option for them.

In a briefing book submitted to Democratic super committee members, a left-leaning Washington think tank tackled the issue of how serious failure would be if the 12 members of the bipartisan, bicameral panel could not get the seven minimum votes necessary to approve a plan.

"If the [committee] deadlocks or its bill is defeated, is that a 'failure' that will have serious adverse effects on the economy? No," the memo from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reads.

It continued in italics: "[T]he key question is whether the [committee's] tax and mandatory spending proposals are better or worse than the cuts that would occur under sequestration."

And that position is one that rank-and-file House Democrats, especially liberals, are not shying away from.

"If we're only going to be talking about cuts, and we still have Medicare and Medicaid on the table, I think it's going to be problematic for a lot of Democrats in the House," Rep. Raúl Grijalva said, noting that sequestration would be a better alternative for his party if Republicans do not agree to raise some taxes as part of any super committee agreement.

"As not [a] last resort, but a resort, yes," said the Arizona Democrat, who is a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) added, "Sequestration is not attractive, but it may be an option. An undesirable option. ... In my view, I cannot imagine my side of the aisle agreeing to just cuts. Then, sequestration looks, bad as it is, better than that."

Adding to the complexity of the issue is where Senate Democrats might stand. Though it would be easy to find Members, particularly liberals, who agree that sequestration would be better than what they perceived as a lopsided deal, the Joint Committee for Deficit Reduction itself was the brainchild of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

In August's Budget Control Act, Reid got his panel, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) got a level of deficit reduction equal to the amount of funds it would take to raise the debt ceiling, and McConnell got a series of resolutions of disapproval to raise the debt ceiling a procedural trick that would allow Republicans to say they voted against raising the debt limit while also enabling the president to avert a potentially catastrophic default.

Reid, therefore, has a vested interest in the super committee's success, but that might not jibe with the interests of a diverse Democratic Party.

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