Dems get cold feet on big spending bills 

Congress is headed for a showdown this week over two major spending bills as lawmakers cringe at passing another round of legislation that would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., insisted that before members leave for a weeklong recess, lawmakers would complete work on a $60 billion war-funding bill as well as a second bill, the $190 billion American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act comprised of unemployment benefits, direct aid to states, Medicare funding and targeted tax cuts.

But moderate Democrats have become squeamish about voting for more big spending packages and some are withholding their support of the jobs bill because of its size. The bill could end up stalling this week, although Reid has threatened to keep the Senate in session over the holiday weekend.

Among the undecided is freshman Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who wants to provide funding for the jobs bill.

As currently written, the House version of the jobs bill would add $134 billion to the deficit. Add to that the cost of the war supplemental, and by the end of the week Congress will have increased the deficit by $194 billion if both bills pass.

American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act

 Cost over 10 years

  • Unemployment insurance - $47 billion  
  • Oil spill response - $10 billion 
  • Agriculture disaster relief - $1.5 billion 
  • Sustaining Medicare payments - $64.7 billion 
  • Helping states cover Medicaid costs - $24 billion 
  • Summer jobs program - $1 billion 
  • Tax cuts for businesses in economically depressed areas - $2.8 billion 
  • Individual tax cuts - $5 billion 


"There is a combined weight from the two bills that creates a psychology that has me pausing to say, 'OK, is this justified?'" Udall told The Washington Examiner.

Udall said similar aid packages passed earlier this year, such as the $787 billion stimulus package, were good, "But at some point, we are going to have to turn that corner and begin to live completely within our means."

Senate Republicans are prepared to offer amendments to pay for both bills and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has warned he will filibuster the war supplemental if it increases the deficit.

Senate Republicans are prepared to offer amendments to pay for both bills and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has warned he will filibuster the war supplemental if it increases the deficit.

"I'm going to try to pay for them," Coburn told The Examiner.

But Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said paying for the bill would require either raising taxes or cutting spending.

"And where do you make a cut?" Durbin said.

Democrats discussed the jobs bill in a closed-door session Tuesday and many voiced concern over spending, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., acknowledged.

"They know we are in a very difficult time in history in which you both need to provide stimulus to the economy because it remains weak," Conrad said. "While at the same time we know we have to pivot and begin to bring down the deficit over time."

In the House, Democratic leaders are struggling to come up with enough votes to pass the jobs bill as the sizable class of moderate Democratic freshmen and fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dogs balk at its cost and tax-raising provisions.

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., said he opposes the scope of the jobs package and a provision in it that would require investors to pay taxes on certain kinds of interest that he said could have a negative effect on real estate trusts and job-creating venture capital companies.

"There are many members who share my concerns," Polis said.

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