WASHINGTON - Democrats on the Super Congress will insist that the body's mandate be expanded to include job creation measures, setting up the first major ideological battle a day before the panel is set to meet for the first time.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said on Wednesday that Democrats on the panel are in agreement that the national debt can't be decreased without growing the economy. "It's part of the recovery. Growth will raise revenue," Baucus said after a lunch meeting with Democrats. He declined to specify the size of a stimulus package he'd want included. "It's gotta be one that makes sense," he said, distancing himself, apparently, from the camp that advocates a senseless plan.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the author of a bill to create an infrastructure bank that would spur construction lending, also said that the panel should focus on job growth. "I don't think you can reduce the deficit of the country in the scope that we need to without growth," he said. "We have to have that discussion."
Baucus said that he had yet to discuss the matter with Republicans on the committee, but acknowledged that pushing for job creation measures would make it harder for the panel to reach a consensus. "It'll be difficult. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but it should be addressed," he said.
In the days after the creation of the panel, a joint committee tasked with reducing the national debt by $1.2 trillion over ten years, the stock market plummeted. A pitiful employment report followed, showing that the U.S. economy had added a net zero jobs in August. As quickly as the debt-reduction committee had been conceived and its members appointed, it began to seem out of step with the new focus on job creation in Washington.
The Democratic insistence on a focus on jobs puts the party's panel members in step with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which previously called for the committee to prioritize job creation as a way to pay down the debt. As more people find work, more workers are paying income taxes and fewer are collecting unemployment benefits or disability.
Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, is proposing to create a Joint Select Committee on Job Creation that would be, in effect, a Super Congress for jobs. It would be tasked with crafting a plan to return the country to full employment by 2021.
Democrats in the already-existing committee have suggested that short-term stimulus spending could be added to the package, as long as it still wound up slashing the requisite amount of debt over ten years.
"Unemployment's a big problem," said Baucus. "Short term growth helps raise to revenue."