Austerity votes in Europe show that GOP is wrong, top Democrat says

Austerity agendas in France and Greece resulted in voter rebellions this week. It's a sign that the GOP's austerity program for the US is mistaken, says Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen. 

Evan Vucci/AP/File
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington in this file photo.

Democrats see confirmation of their budget policies in the results of this weekend’s elections in Greece and France, where voters turned out politicians who were tied to austerity measures, says Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

The election results "confirm the position that many of us have taken, which is the most important thing right now is to sustain and nurture the very fragile economy, and that while we have to develop and implement a long-term deficit reduction plan, we should be very careful in designing that that we do nothing to hurt the fragile economy,” Congressman Van Hollen said Tuesday at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters.

The issue of budget austerity came into sharp focus on Capitol Hill Monday evening when the House Budget Committee's Republican majority passed a measure on a 21 to 9 party-line vote to trim $261 billion from domestic spending over the next decade. Among programs that would see funding cuts were Medicaid, food stamps, and a child tax credit. The social spending reductions were designed to prevent a 10 percent, across-the-board reduction in the Pentagon’s budget, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 2 unless Congress acts.

In a prepared statement, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said, “We’re here today to meet our legal and our moral obligations to lead.“ Congressman Ryan, the Republicans' point person on fiscal issues, contends that the president and Democratic leaders in the US Senate are not offering proposals to rein in the federal deficit.

The debate on whether austerity measures help or hinder an economic recovery is very much alive in Washington. “Democrats and the president have been focused first and foremost on trying to get the economy moving again,” Van Hollen said.

Republicans have backed a plan to cut and grow, Van Hollen said. “What has been very clear about the situation in the UK and other places is that that approach has only made their economic downturns worse, not better.”

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