While over in the House, Republican Speaker John Boehner seems content to shed more American jobs in the name of budget-cutting, Senate Democrats have rolled out an expansive agenda they say will put Americans back to work.
When asked about the potential of the GOP’s wish-list of $61 billion in federal spending cuts to force more Americans onto the unemployment line, Boehner responded, “So be it.”
By contrast, top Senate Democrats on Wednesday were busy unveiling legislative priorities that they insist will meet President Obama’s State of the Union goals of “out-educating, out-innovating and out-building the rest of the world.”
The agenda balances the need for critical investments with a serious commitment to deficit reduction, Democrats say.
“While Republicans say ‘so be it’ to the unemployed, Senate Democrats are working to create jobs and make America more competitive,” says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “That means making smart choices about cutting waste and excess, and living within our means. As we reduce government spending and cut the deficit, we will continue to create jobs and strengthen our future by becoming the world leader in clean energy, reviving American manufacturing and preparing our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Senate Democrats also released a report Wednesday that finds that the House Republicans’ spending measure would take 3,000 police officers off the beat, lay off as many as 65,000 teachers, and potentially delay the payout of Social Security benefits for half a million Americans.
“The numbers tell a devastating story about how extreme these cuts are. If we follow the House Republicans’ roadmap, it would lead the country over the cliff. It’s proving too extreme for many of their own members,” says Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Democrats say their plan calls for reforms to the tax code by cracking down on cheaters, eliminating inefficient loopholes and ending giveaways to billionaires and special interests.
“In order to win the future, Democrats are proposing an agenda that will help us out-innovate, out-build and out-educate our competition,” says Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate. “This agenda will help us create jobs, reduce the deficit and maintain our position as a world leader in science and innovation.”
To out-innovate international competitors, the plan calls for expanding tax credits for research and development, investing in clean energy technologies and more efficient buildings and homes, reforming the U.S. patent process and increasing cyber security.
“Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure is a must-do. In addition to putting Americans to work, it will allow people and goods to travel more efficiently and speed the flow of commerce,” says Schumer, a senior Democrat who this year has taken a larger role in crafting Democratic policies. “We deliberately prioritized policies that had strong potential for gaining bipartisan consensus. We will promote each of these policies at the same time that we get serious about deficit reduction. Our commitment to a five-year spending freeze will make good on the President’s call to balance critical investments that create jobs with a commitment to reducing waste in the budget.”
To out-build U.S. competitors and create the infrastructure the nation needs to compete in a global marketplace, the Democrats say their agenda calls for modernization of air travel, transportation, Internet, manufacturing and electric grid infrastructure, measures that will create jobs.
“We can and we will out-educate our global competitors and build a highly-skilled workforce for the 21st century,” says Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “We will improve the Workforce Investment Act, fix No Child Left Behind, and make the College Tuition Tax Credit permanent. This Democratic education and workforce agenda is what competing is all about.”
To out-educate competitors and make sure American workers can compete for the high-paying jobs of today and tomorrow, Democrats say their plan also calls for reforms to the nation’s education system to ensure a competitive workforce, and college tax credits that will expand opportunities for American workers.
Scott Nance is the publisher of the news site The Washington Current, formerly known as On The Hill. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.