Both the Left and Right Sour on Debt Deal

By Shush Walshe

Aug 1, 2011 6:03pm

ABC News’ Shushannah Walshe (@shushwalshe) reports

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada today echoed the feelings of people on both ends of the political spectrum who say they feel cut out of the final debt deal, but still urged members of Congress to vote for the compromise.

“People on the right are upset. People on the left are upset. People in the middle are upset. It was a compromise,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “Today congress has a unique responsibility to show the world we can achieve not in spite of our divided government, but because of it.”

Despite the urging from congressional leaders that their members vote for the deal ahead of Tuesday’s default deadline, both lawmakers and outside groups are saying no and are pleading with — even threatening — legislators from their side of the aisle to cast a no vote. 

One of the most colorful objections to the deal was Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who said the compromise was a rejection of Democratic values.

"This is a Satan sandwich,” Cleaver told ABC News. “There's no question about it, because there's nothing inside this sandwich that the major religions of the world would say deals with protection for the poor, the widows, the children — it's not in here.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is also angry about the deal. He said Sunday that the Republicanshave been absolutely determined to make certain that the rich and large corporations not contribute one penny for deficit reduction, and that all of the sacrifice comes from the middle class and working families” in terms of cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and other programs.

Sanders said he won’t vote for the bill because the “Reid proposal balances the budget on the backs of struggling Americans while not requiring one penny of sacrifice from the wealthiest people in our country.  That is not only grotesquely immoral, it is bad economic policy."

It’s not just Democrats who are upset. The conservative Club for Growth said it “strongly oppose(s)” the debt deal and made sure that members knew the group was serious about its rejection, warning lawmakers in a letter sent to all congressional offices that the vote will be included in the Club’s 2011 Congressional Scorecard.

“The problems with this proposal are many, but fiscal conservatives should have obvious concerns for the lack of guaranteed future spending cuts, no requirement that a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution be sent to the states, a commission that could still recommend job-killing tax increases, and worse of all, two debt limit increases totaling over $2 trillion within only a matter of months,” wrote Andrew Roth, the group’s vice president for government affairs.

ABC News’ Jon Karl reported Monday that while talking to members of Congress walking out of meetings of the House Democrats meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and House Republicans meeting with Speaker John Boehner that Republicans are “much more positive about the debt deal than Democrats.” 

It seems that the progressive community is the most upset with the deal. One group, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, is reminding people that more than 200,000 people pledged on their website to only volunteer and donate to Democrats in 2012 who “oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits. These people gave over 2.5 million volunteer hours and over $17 million to Obama in 2008.” A clear warning to Democrats thinking about voting yes.

In a statement, PCCC co-founder Adam Green said the “deal will kill our economy and is an attack on middle-class families.”

"It asks nothing of the rich, will reduce middle-class jobs, and lines up Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for cuts. Today, we're putting in thousands of calls to Congress urging Democrats to keep their promise and oppose this awful bill. The 14th Amendment is unambiguous, and President Obama should invoke it to pay our nation's debt. Then Democrats should focus on jobs — not cuts — in order to grow our economy,” the statement read. is another liberal group angry about the deal and said it had surveyed its 5 million members and the “vast majority oppose the deal because it unfairly asks seniors and the middle class to bear the burden of the debt deal.” In a fiery statement Executive Director Justin Ruben urges “Congress to do what it should have done long ago and what it has done dozens of times before — pass a clean debt ceiling bill.”

“This is a bad deal for our fragile economic recovery, a bad deal for the middle class and a bad deal for tackling our real long-term budget problems. It forces deep cuts to important programs that protect the middle class, but asks nothing of big corporations and millionaires. And though it does not require cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid benefits, it opens the door for these down the road via an unaccountable Congressional committee,” Ruben’s statement read.

The Strengthen Social Security Campaign also rejected the deal calling it a “recipe to raid Social Security, and harm the economic security of American workers and their families.”

The group works to limit cuts to social security and said they are “pleased” that the “first set of spending cuts does not include cuts to Social Security,” but they “object to the proposed super Committee of Congress, which can recommend changes to Social Security that will have to be considered on a fast-track basis, without amendment and without the opportunity for unlimited debate in the Senate.” 

On the other side of the aisle, tea partiers are also saying the compromise doesn’t reflect their priorities although it’s clear they seem to believe their side made out better on the deal. Levi Russell, the communications director of the Tea Party Express called the deal a “great first step,” but that “most of Congress is only talking about getting responsible, and not quite all the way to taking real action on it. This plan does nothing to fundamentally improve our economy and change course from the last several years of skyrocketing spending.”

Russell added that “real change” can only happen if the tea party “repeats the electoral success of 2010 again in 2012” stressing that will be their “primary focus for the next 15 or so months.”

“The tea party has been victorious in that the debate has been changed from how much to spend, to how much and where to cut,” Russell told ABC News.

Two tea party lawmakers, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., told ABC News’ Amy Walter and Z. Byron Wolf on “Topline” today that even though they won’t be voting for the bill they also believe the Tea Party won out in the final deal. 

“The fact that we're now having a serious discussion about debts where we're talking about cutting spending, that there's no tax increases that we're talking about right now, that's a huge — at least moral victory, I think — for a lot of fiscal conservatives that were concerned about the financial health of this country,” Chaffetz said.

And Duncan said the freshman Republican and the tea party “had an impact on this process” and “got us talking about cuts to government spending.”

“We're talking about deficit reduction. We're talking about the nation's debt, and we're talking about getting our fiscal house in order,” Duncan said.

FreedomWorks, another tea party-aligned group, has a similar outlook on the deal. FreedomWorks President Matthew Kibbe told Walter that even if the bill passes, the group doesn’t see it as a defeat for the movement, stressing that the Tea Party has “fundamentally changed the conversation in Washington” and “we will have this debate about spending priorities going all the way until the 2012 elections.”

The Club for Growth might have warned lawmakers that this vote will go on their scorecard, but Kibbe says they will “look at all their votes, not just this one.” As an example, Kibbe used Rep. Allen West, a tea party hero, who is reportedly going to support the legislation. 

“Generally speaking,” Kibbe told Walter, West has been “leading the charge” when it comes to tea party issues. He added that this vote alone won’t cause FreedomWorks to turn on him.

The Cut, Cap and Balance Coalition, a group of hundreds of tea party chapters and more than fifty conservative legislators, also came out Sunday opposing the debt deal.

While they “applaud the efforts” of Boehner and senate minority leader Mitch McConnell they said they couldn’t support the deal because it doesn’t meet their requirement for a balanced budget amendment. “The most glaring shortcoming is that the second debt ceiling increase in this package isn’t tied directly to Congressional approval of a balanced budget amendment as a pre-condition,” the group said. “It may therefore be avoided altogether."

The anger on both sides will undoubtedly have political fallout. The 2012 GOP presidential candidates have all rejected the legislation, except for Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and now The Hill is reporting that Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina may go back on his vow not to support primary challenges to incumbent GOP senators.

The Hill reported today that DeMint is “angry enough with the debt ceiling compromise” that he “may back serious challengers to Republican senators who support the plan, according to a source close to the senator.”

GOP senators who may face a primary challenge from the right include Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the two longest serving lawmakers in the senate.





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