Even without a debt-limit deal completed, liberal lawmakers and activist groups are already lining up against the outlines of the agreement, saying President Obama and congressional Democrats are risking Social Security while squandering a chance to force tax increases.
“Today we, and everyone we have worked to speak for and fight for, were thrown under the bus,” Rep. Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who is co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Sunday as top senators began to describe the deal they are trying to strike with Mr. Obama.
Attention throughout the debt debate has been showered on tea party-powered Republicans, while liberal lawmakers think they’ve been ill-represented in the negotiations.
And this weekend that frustration boiled over.
In the House, a handful of liberal members voted against Democrats’ plan, as did Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats and who had harsh words for the trajectory of discussions over the last few months.
Mr. Sanders, a self-identified socialist, complained that in that bill, “not one penny of revenue” would be raised.
Though Mr. Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner flirted with possible tax increases in earlier talks, those have not been part of the bills on the House and Senate floors during the last two weeks, and senators said they are not part of the outlines of the final deal taking shape.
And just as worrisome to left-leaning Democrats is the deal’s apparent establishment of a committee to recommend future deficit reduction. Liberal lawmakers said they expect that committee to try to cut money from Medicare benefits and Social Security payments.
“If the president were willing to make a much stronger case on that, he can, it seems to me, succeed without these kind of impacts on domestic programs,” Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, told reporters at the Capitol on Sunday. “So far the president has not been willing to make that case in a very strong way, and the result is there will be a greater threat to a bunch of domestic programs which are very very important.”
The senator said he hopes Mr. Obama will push harder for tax reforms during next year’s federal budget debate.
What Democrats will likely earn, however, is a boost to the government’s current $14.29 trillion borrowing limit that will last through 2013, or past the next election. In the Senate they also will achieve that increase without having to take a series of difficult votes before facing voters again.
Despite his concerns, Mr. Levin stopped short of saying he or most of his fellow Democrats would try to defeat the emerging deal, though he acknowledged “a lot of unease” with the Democratic caucus.
But outside the Capitol, there could be consequences for Democrats and for Mr. Obama in particular as he prepared to run for re-election.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal group, has collected pledges from more than 200,000 people who said they would not donate time or money to Mr. Obama’s campaign if he allows cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. PCCC said those people accounted for $17 million in donations and 2.5 million volunteer hours for Mr. Obama in 2008.