The leading Democrat on the House Budget Committee said this morning that his caucus’ amenability to a budget agreement hinges on one word: “equity.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said he sees a “50/50” chance of an agreement coming out of the budget conference led by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
“And part of it is the simple matter of equity. There’s no reason that federal employees should take it on the chin as part of this agreement when federal employees have disproportionately contributed to the deficit reduction efforts to date. Over $140 billion of the deficit reduction efforts over the last couple years have come from federal employees,” Van Hollen said on MSNBC.
Democrats want a wholesale repeal of sequestration, while Republicans are generally in favor of repealing the cuts targeting national defense.
“You cannot be asking federal employees to bear the share of the burden that they’re asking for here as part of an agreement when you’re not asking, for example, agribusinesses that get huge taxpayer subsidies to have a contribution toward the deal. So we should be replacing the sequester. I’ve had a piece of legislation in to do that for three years. We’ve tried to get a vote on it and have been denied,” said Van Hollen.
“But as we do that, you can’t take this out on just one segment of individuals. You’ve got to have equity in this. So there are lots of still — things that are still up in the air as part of this negotiation.”
Van Hollen also wants unemployment insurance to be part of the equation, and called Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) argument that an extension wouldn’t help motivate workers “ridiculous.”
“I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they’re paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers,” Paul said. “When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our — in our economy. And it really — while it seems good, it actually does a disservice to the people you’re trying to help.”
“Here he is blaming people who are out of work through no fault of their own, who are still looking for work — and that’s a condition of continuing to receive unemployment compensation. And we still have very high unemployment rates in the country, historically speaking,” Van Hollen said.
The Democrat also noted that the farm bill is still in play and milk prices could go up soon if an agreement is not reached.
“And Congress should stay in town. They should absolutely not leave until we work this out,” he said.