WASHINGTON — With a possible government shutdown still looming if Congress fails to pass a 2011 budget bill, Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives accused Republicans on Tuesday of holding the country in suspense by proposing a budget that would slash jobs unacceptably.
Republican House leaders are willing to throw away hundred of thousands of jobs in order to reduce the deficit, said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a press conference after the House Democratic Caucus’s weekly meeting. As long as the budget bill includes such cuts, Democrats will not vote to support them.
“We can cut in a way that doesn’t undermine our values,” Pelosi said.
In a bill that passed the House but stopped in the Senate last month, Republicans called for a $61 billion budget reduction. Their targets included many programs Democrats have traditionally supported, such as public broadcasting, family planning efforts and college aid.
Democrats also likely will not vote to support the three-week budget bill the House will consider today, Pelosi said. The two-week stopgap bill that passed Mar. 4 has created an environment of uncertainty in which government agencies and the armed services don’t know how to plan.
“Many feel that this [stopgap] is just a matter of death by a thousand slashes,” said Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., the chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
In addition to eliminating jobs, some of the cuts Republicans have proposed would put Americans’ lives in danger, said Rep. Coleen Hanabusa, D.-Hawaii. The proposed elimination of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center would leave her state unprepared for a natural disaster like the one that struck Japan last week.
Larson also drew a parallel between Congress’s budget struggles and other current events, raising his voice as he compared what he called Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s single-minded determination to eliminate collective bargaining with Republican refusal to compromise on the budget bill.
“It has been 11 weeks, and the Republicans are focusing on nothing but a social agenda,” he said.
If Republicans really wanted to balance the budget, they would cut tax breaks for the wealthy, Pelosi said. When Democrats proposed a 2011 budget $41 billion less than a budget request President Barack Obama made last year, only one Republican voted for it, she said.
Republicans have argued that because Obama’s budget request never passed, Pelosi’s $41 billion in cuts are illusory.
Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, agreed with other Democratic leaders that slashing jobs is unacceptable. But Congress must produce a year-long budget plan as soon as possible, Becerra said.
“Baby-step budgeting has never worked for the United States, and it’s not going to work this year,” Becerra said.