fresh voices from the front lines of change







On Thursday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi reportedly told her fellow Democrats to embrace the suck" and vote for a federal budget deal that, in the name of bipartisan compromise, compromised away financial support for more than a million of the long-term unemployed and placed heavier financial burdens on the backs of already battered federal employees.

Thus was born one of the most disappointing spectacles of the 113th Congress, as 163 Democrats voted with 169 Republicans to support an economically bad and morally repugnant budget agreement.

But there were those who put principle before the political expediency of compromise for compromise's sake. They were among the 32 Democrats who voted not to "embrace the suck" but instead embrace the unemployed and public employees.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., was one of them. “I am disappointed that I cannot vote in favor of the budget proposal on the House floor today," he said before the vote. "While I commend the budget conference committee on its work to reach a deal, just because Congress has a deal does not mean Congress has done its job."

In particular, he said, "At the end of the day, the bill abandons 1.3 million Americans who desperately need unemployment insurance, and does nothing to promote economic growth or job creation. Furthermore, the legislation is paid for on the backs of the middle class and military families, while not touching the wealthiest amongst us and allowing corporations to continue to benefit from tax loopholes.

"Congress shouldn’t be patting ourselves on the back just because we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot."

"It is unconscionable for Congress to go home after leaving such critical work undone,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said in a statement, adding that "Funding for what should be our top priorities — education, health, child care, job training and infrastructure — has steadily eroded."

“Congress must pass a budget that invests in good jobs, the economy and education and that rejects proposals to cut pensions and retirement," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who condemned the bill for cutting off, "three days after Christmas," extended unemployment benefits. "It is time to look at closing corporate tax loopholes. It’s time to ask corporations that shift jobs overseas, oil and gas companies, and private jet owners to contribute their fair share.”

Even Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., known for being a moderate, establishment voice in the Democratic Caucus, could not bring himself to support this deal. "It's unconscionable that the budget deal before us today does not extend unemployment insurance, which helps those who are most at risk in our society, and if we do not help them, the economy will suffer and 200,000 jobs are predicted to be lost."

Hoyer also underscored that the deal "does not replace the full sequester," the mindless, job-killing across-the-board cuts to federal spending that went into effect earlier this year. And it "turns once again to middle-class workers" to carry the full load of the compromises needed to strike a deal, while asking nothing from millionaires and billionaires.

More than 1,000 of you answered our call Thursday to tell Congress vote no on this budget deal and to keep Congress in session until there was an agreement that at least included continuing benefits for the long-term unemployed. Though the House as a body disregarded our calls, these Democrats heard us and voted "no." They deserve to be saluted. The list includes these Progressive Caucus members:

Rush Holt, N.J.
Barbara Lee, Calif.
Frank Pallone Jr., N.J.
Linda Sånchez, Calif.
Loretta Sanchez, Calif.
Janice "Jan" Schakowsky, Ill.
Louise Slaughter, N.Y.
Bennie Thompson, Miss.
Nydia Velåzquez, N.Y.
Maxine Waters, Calif.
Melvin "Mel" Watt, N.C.
Keith Ellison, Minn.
Yvette Clarke, N.Y.
Chellie Pingree, Maine.
Kurt Schrader, Ore.
Marcia Fudge, Ohio.
Cedric Richmond, La.
Karen Bass, Calif.
Lois Frankel, Fla.
Mark Pocan, Wis.

These Democrats also voted "no":

Judy Chu, Calif.
David Cicilline, R.I.
Colleen Hanabusa, Hawaii.
Steny Hoyer, Md.
Sander Levin, Mich.
Mike McIntyre, N.C.
Gloria Negrete McLeod, Calif.
Peter Visclosky, Ind.

Derek Pugh contributed to this post.

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