WASHINGTON, D.C. – A day after Republicans in the House and Senate announced their picks for the Joint Select Committee to recommend ways to reduce the federal deficit as part of the debt ceiling compromise, New Jersey’s two senators and 21 other Senate Democrats asked them to put jobs first.
In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg joined 21 colleagues to argue that spurring job growth in the short term is a vital element of reducing the deficit and should therefore be central to the new committee.
“For families across the country, the biggest economic problem is high unemployment,” wrote the senators. “As you know, the lack of jobs and anemic growth rate of the economy are not only enormous problems in their own right, causing great pain for millions of Americans, they are a major component of our deficit…Let us be very clear: our fiscal challenge is directly linked to the jobs crisis and we cannot solve the former without tackling the latter.”
“[J]obless workers put additional strain on our critical social safety net programs,” the senators wrote. “As more and more Americans rely on unemployment benefits, food stamps and Medicaid, our deficits go up. Getting those individuals back to work not only allows them to be self-sufficient, it reduces federal government spending.”
None of the three Senate Democrats appointed to the Joint Select Committee — Patty Murray (D-WA), Max Baucus (D-MT), and John Kerry (D-MA) – signed the letter.
While the Republicans senators picked to serve on the committee agree that job creation is vital, it is unlikely they’ll agree with Democrats on the best way to support it.
“Whatever we do, we’ve got to be careful that we don’t hurt the prospects for economic recovery and job creation,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). “In fact, we should be doing things that support job creation, and that’s one of the reasons why we don’t want to be raising taxes.”
Many Democrats believe that higher taxes for the wealthy and an end to corporate tax loopholes are vital parts of a deficit reduction strategy.
The committee must make recommendations to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. If the committee fails in its task, or Congress refuses to adopt its recommendations, it will trigger across-the-board budget cuts affecting everything from military spending to Medicare and Medicaid.
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