Rep. Sestak: Tax Deal a ‘Back-Door Stimulus’; Democrats Lacked ‘Courage’ with First Stimulus

By Maya

Dec 17, 2010 2:11pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: House Democrats resoundingly though reluctantly helped pass President Obama’s tax-cut deal overnight, handing the president a major victory achieved in large part by striking a compromise with Republicans. Among those voting yes was retiring Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., who said he didn’t let his opposition to tax breaks for the wealthy get in the way of achieving other significant priorities. On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Sestak – who lose a race for US Senate last month – said the measure was necessary as a “back-door stimulus,” in part because Democrats laced the “courage” to top $1 trillion in their initial stimulus package, in early 2009. “I’ve always argued that the first stimulus bill was not large enough,” Sestak told us. “In fact, Vice President Biden came into our caucus and said we knew the original stimulus should’ve been $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion.” “And because they didn’t have the courage to bring down our original unemployment to 8.5 percent the year after the stimulus was passed — if we had done it right — now we have a back-door stimulus, which is going to bring our unemployment down from this December to 8.5 percent. So I supported it. But I also supported it because of the middle class, the working families, the unemployed, there’s no way you can pull the trigger against them when they’re hurting so bad.” Democrats erred in not passing a tax bill before the election, “when frankly there was a little more juice on the Democratic side.” Sestak, a former Navy admiral, also faulted the Obama administration for not providing more “metrics” to back up claims that the current strategy for Afghanistan is on track. “Our president told us two Marches ago that this whole focus on our efforts there would be on Al Qaeda — that’s only in Pakistan. There’s no Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And then he said key phrases: there will be metrics to measure out performance, and these benchmarks would ensure that there is no open-ended commitment.” “He promised it, we don’t have it. And that’s why you’re seeing the public, once more, quizzing a government that isn’t telling it [that] it can measure what it says it’s doing.” Sestak said he expects the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military to be repealed by the end of the Congress. “Heaven forbid — it’s about time,” Sestak said. “The institution will be better if we also have the best, no matter their sexual orientation.” And Sestak did not rule out another run for public office, noting that he came “close in a tough environment” in falling to Sen.-elect Pat Toomey, R-Pa., last month. “I’m going to every one of the 61 counties … to go back to Pennsylvania to say thank you. Because we came that close in a tough environment. And a moderate voice can be heard in a sea of anger,” Sestak said. “But I’m going to do this — I’m going to stay in public service. I like the dialogue. It’s important to be involved. I don’t know how I’m going to define public service, but after I get the rest of my staff a job, I’ll worry about how I’m going to go forward.” Also today, we checked in with Matthew Jaffe, who covers the Senate for us at ABC, on the last sprint toward the end of the congressional session.

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