Seeking to counter House Republicans’ bold plans for budget cuts, Senate Democrats on Wednesday laid out a five-page “Winning the Future” agenda that called for a spending freeze alongside a host of proposals for expanded tax cuts they say will boost job growth.
Democrats argued that their new investments in education, energy and highways coupled with an overall spending freeze is preferable to deep cuts across the government proposed by Republicans.
“The House Republican approach is to cut everything,” Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said.
“The budget in the House is a road map to disaster,” said Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.). “We are being responsible; they are being reckless.”
The Senate Democratic blueprint comes as the House debates a continuing resolution to fund the government through Sept. 30. The measure calls for $100 billion in cuts from President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget recommendation.
Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), who runs the party’s campaign committee, said the Democrats’ agenda shows the contrast with House Republicans. Democrats want to invest in the American people so they have the skills for the future, she said.
But they said that cutting deep into education, infrastructure and scientific research, as the House Republicans plan to do this week, would cut future job growth and lead to deep cuts in both private and public-sector jobs at a time when the economy cannot afford it.
The Democratic agenda — intentionally dovetailing with Obama’s State of the Union address call to “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build” the rest of the world — is modest relative to the 111th Congress and consists almost entirely of recycled ideas, albeit ones that generally have enjoyed some bipartisan support.
The 20-item list includes finally passing a long-delayed highway bill, protecting stimulus investments in building a smart grid and clean energy from Republican cuts, creating a “Clean Energy Deployment Administration,” and making the research and development tax credit permanent. Other items include perennials such as patent reform, tax reform and a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind law.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also said he has spoken to Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who is writing a Senate version of the continuing resolution to counter the Republican plan.
Even as they slammed Republicans, however, Democratic leaders said they hoped to work with them. Reid said he was pleased to see Obama reach out to Republicans on the deficit Tuesday and is reaching out himself.
“We are really trying very hard to work on a bipartisan basis,” he said.
Reid and Durbin said Democrats understand the need for spending restraint, noting Durbin’s support of the president’s fiscal commission plan to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade as well as their support for Obama’s five-year spending freeze, at a minimum, which would save $400 billion over a decade.
“The day will come, and I hope soon, that we’ll be at the same table” and negotiating a deal, Durbin said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, derided Democrats for lining up behind Obama’s “timid” proposal for a spending freeze.
“Don’t they realize that current levels of spending are the reason we just had the biggest wave election in a generation? The senior Senator from New York seems to think that anything short of freezing current spending levels is extreme.
“I’ll tell you what’s extreme: Extreme is to insist in the middle of a jobs and debt crisis that government has to spend a trillion dollars more than we take in every year.”