Add prominent House Democrats to the list of critics of President Obama’s budget. At a press conference Tuesday morning to attack the GOP’s budget proposals, it didn’t take much to get two longtime members of the House Democratic team to vow that the president’s cuts to progressive-friendly programs won’t go through without a fight in his own party.
TPM asked several Democrats gathered at Tuesday’s presser to comment on progressive attacks on the president’s budget, outlined nicely here by Mother Jones‘ Suzy Khimm. The left has knocked Obama for offering up a budget plan that makes cuts to programs like energy assistance payments for the indigent and Pell grant funding, which helps the poor attend college. Others on the left like Paul Krugman have said the budget cedes the notion that government spending can create jobs to the GOP, which has generally said the best way to make jobs happen is to cut taxes on the wealthy and businesses.
The answer from Democrats to those attacks? The Republican budget is so bad that Obama’s budget looks good. Also, they’re not going to let that Obama budget go through without a fight, either.“There’s a difference between … going after the cuts with a surgeon’s scalpel or a chain saw,” House Democratic caucus chair John Larson (CT) said, comparing the two budget proposals. “And I think that’s the difference we’re seeing in terms of the strategic and effective cuts that the President’s making.”
“We have our personal differences,” he added, “and we’ll put our own legislative stamp on them.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) spent much of her prepared remarks at the presser suggesting that the Republican cuts to energy assistance and medical research in their budget proposal could actually endanger lives.
“How will older Americans survive with the choice between whether or not they can eat or heat their apartment?” she asked, referring to the GOP budget plan. “They’ll turn down the gas and won’t cook the food to its appropriate temperature, harming their health. Or worse, they’ll buy a space heater and put their lives in danger.”
She said she’d take that same passion about the program to a fight with Obama over his budget proposal, which also includes cuts to the energy assistance program.
“I’ll speak for myself personally: I will make a fight for funding for the low-income energy assistance bill,” DeLauro said. “[The White House budget team] have to make some tough choices, I understand that. But I have a responsibility in that regard to championing that issue.”
DeLauro also said she’d fight for Pell grants, which Obama’s budget also makes changes to, just as the GOP budget does. The President’s plan includes $100 million in cuts to Pell grants, but CNN reports the White House pledges to “use those savings to ensure that eligible students would be able to receive the current maximum award of $5,500 per school year.”
DeLauro said she’d keep a close eye on the Pell changes in the President’s plan.
“I will wait to see what that really translates into,” said. “But i will fight for Pell grants.”
Both Democrats said their differences with the White House budget weren’t the same as the ones they have with the GOP. The Republican proposal, they suggested, borders on the draconian and is worth going to the mat over. The President’s plan, they said, may just need some tweaking. The panel of Democrats at the presser this morning — which included Reps. Chris Van Hollen (MD) and Javier Becera (CA) along with DeLaruo and Larson — praised the Obama plan’s focus on new infrastructure spending and money for education.
“We recognize the investments that the President has made [in his budget] and there are always going to be areas in which we have specific differences of opinion on what ought to happen,” DeLauro said. “We are not just saying ‘ok, this is it. That’s what it is.’ But overall, in terms of its values — where it places its emphasis — is about where our future is.”