A handful of discontented Democrats gathered on the steps of City Hall today to blast the $38 billion budget cut, which they called “draconian” and “morally wrong.”
“The Republicans’ proposed budget cuts for the fiscal years 2011 and 2012 are the most radical I’ve ever seen,” said Jerrold Nadler, who was joined by Anthony Weiner, Charlie Rangel, Carolyn Maloney and Eliot engel. “That extremist Republican agenda is precisely what brought us to the brink, to the edge, of a government shutdown.”
Obama and congressional leaders agreed to the stopgap budget deal late Friday, dodging a government shutdown by agreeing to $38 billion in cuts from a variety of federal programs. Liberal Democrats have argued that the bill is socially irresponsible and that it would kill jobs.
The deal was preceded by a long-term deficit-reduction proposal from Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, which would make deep cuts to entitlement spending.
“My Republican colleagues would like to repeal the twentieth century,” said Engel. “They want to repeal Medicare and Medicaid, they want to repeal Social Security. And they are using the budget crisis as a ruse.”
Democratic lawmakers have also criticized Obama, saying that he is caving to conservatives who are aiming to use the budget to push a social agenda. Nadler has said that Democrats have been blackmailed into the deal, accusing Obama of “whistling past the graveyard” in proclaiming a budget victory. Weiner expressed a similar sentiment via his Twitter. The representatives exempted Obama from criticism today, however, instead calling on congressional Democrats to fight the proposed measures.
“I recognize that the president has a $14 trillion deficit,” said Rangel, who also said that Obama is dealing with with a Republican party that refuses to compromise. “The president has three undeclared wars. The president has an income tax system where the richest of the rich pay absolutely nothing.”
“I think he was a fine leader–he brought parties together to negotiate, that’s what government’s about,” said Maloney. “Not everyone got what they wanted but we did avert a government shutdown.”
This may have been slightly premature, as much of the deal remains undefined. Maryland congressman Chris Van Hollen said yesterday on ABC News’ This Week that lawmakers were still negotiating the fine details of the cut, and Senator Charles Schumer was unwilling to identify the specific cuts when pressed. All of which has left some Democrats–including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand–wittholding judgment on the deal.
Rangel suggested the budget fight could be a defining moment for Democrats.
“This is an opportunity for America really to prove who we are, and what we represent,” said Rangel, who helpfully suggested that lawmakers turn to spiritual leaders for guidance. “The $38 billion is nothing compared to the nightmare that the Republicans are preparing in the House of Representatives.”
Lawmakers will vote on the measure this Thursday. If they do not reach an agreement, the government faces another potential shutdown.