One of the House Progressive Caucus co-chairs, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., is expected to introduce a bill later today that will require the 12-member congressional deficit-reduction “super-committee” to vote on a plan to create 3 million jobs—before acting on spending cuts.
The legislation is called “The Emergency Jobs Now Act,” and it joins other efforts by progressive lawmakers to give the deficit-reduction committee that was created out of the debt-ceiling debacle earlier this summer a dual mandate to address unemployment as well as spending. Such efforts won’t pass muster with the leaders of the House Republican majority, who have already made it clear they will oppose any attempt to have the super-committee focus on anything other than slashing spending, even though the spending-slashing will have an adverse effect on jobs and, thus, the government’s ability to deal with its long-term debt.
Ellison’s bill would require the super-committee to vote on an emergency jobs legislation recommendation by October 14. Congress would then be required to vote on emergency jobs legislation endorsed by the super-committee by October 31, before the December 23 deadline for a vote on deficit reduction.
That proposal follows the announcement of a three-piece legislative package by Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., that offers different approaches to getting jobs on the super-committee agenda. The committee could adopt a jobs recommendation in a manner similar to what Ellison proposes, it could add four members and then develop a jobs recommendation, or a separate committee could be created to work in tandem with the deficit-reduction committee.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., has introduced a bill that ” would create an adjustment to the discretionary spending limits for appropriations for emergency job creation.”
On the other side of the Hill, meanwhile, 23 senators last month sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying that job creation should be a central task of the super-committee. “Just as we can all acknowledge that reducing our deficits over the medium and long term is a national imperative, we would hope that all 100 Senators could agree that sacrificing job creation in the near term to pursue that imperative would be a grave mistake. … 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,” the letter said.
The super-committee actually doesn’t need permission from Congress to push for a jobs program; all it has to do is show that doing so is integral to meeting it deficit-reduction targets. The legislation does provide a rallying point for those of us who believe that any effort to reduce the deficit by cutting programs that support the needs of economically struggling households without addressing the jobs crisis will be self-defeating. It is one more vehicle for progressives to push the limits of the fiscal debate.
This post was updated to correct the affiliation of Rep. Keith Ellison. It was also updated on Sept. 8 at 6:59 p.m. to include a link to Rep. Raul Grijalva’s bill.