As I mentioned, President Obama unveiled a package of job creation measures that would invest up to $200 billion dollars in various efforts aimed at small businesses, infrastructure and clean energy.
However, as the President was speaking at the Brookings Institution, the lead fiscal scold in the US Senate was preparing an effort to subvert the jobs bill and hold it hostage unless he gets a commission to reduce the deficit, including possible cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said on Monday he would be open to using money from the $700 billion Wall Street bailout to pay for a jobs package.
But the Senate Budget Committee chairman said his support is conditioned on securing a promise from leaders to create a deficit reduction task force, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other House Democrats have strongly opposed [...]
Until now, Conrad has joined Republicans on insisting that unused TARP money go toward paying down the deficit. But he said he could be persuaded to back using the money for the jobs bill if Democrats commit to the independent panel.
“The package would have to include a process to deal with the debt,” he said, referring to the jobs package. “Negotiations are under way. We would like a task force or commission with the power to come up with a [debt reduction] plan and for the plan to come up for a vote.Democrats are scrambling to pass the most ambitious jobs bill possible before the end of the year.
Conrad has threatened this on practically every bill over the past month. Earlier, he threatened to hold up the raising of the federal debt limit unless he got his cat food commission. With so many bills on a fast track, an omnibus bill with a number of these measures, including extensions of safety net programs like unemployment and the COBRA subsidy and food stamps, is a possibility.
The White House has insisted that jobs must come before deficit reduction, and may be moving to try and de-fang the commission, and not give it expedited powers to recommend debt-cutting solutions that would require an up-or-down vote.
One question I have for Sen. Conrad, Sen. Gregg and every member of the Senate who have been elbowing each other out to prove how committed they are to preserving Medicare – does that extend to a commission which would have as its goal deficit reduction of “entitlement” programs, including Medicare? Since they are unwilling to cut Medicare in any fashion, would that be explicitly removed from consideration by the cat food commission? Or are we really talking about another bit of Washington hypocrisy?
Sen. Conrad has not responded to requests from FDL News to answer this question.