Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspapers –
In an attempt to reduce the national deficit and improve his political standing, President Barack Obama is making bipartisan moves, which so far has been met with mixed reviews by congressional Democrats.
The president opened last week with a directive for a two-year salary freeze for federal employees, which is expected to save $2 billion for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, $28 billion during the next five years, and more than $60 billion during the next 10 years.
Non-voting Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D- D.C., hailed the move, saying that Obama had already staked out the high moral ground in January 2009 by freezing the pay of his staffers long before proposing a similar move for the rest of the federal government.
However, not all Democrats are as supportive as Norton. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-MD, said the freeze is unfair to federal employees, who should not have to carry the burden. “I am disappointed that President Obama’s proposal for a two-year pay freeze for federal employees comes without additional steps to share the burden and sacrifice of reducing our federal deficit,” Edwards said in a statement. “Unfortunately, our civil servants will continue to work alongside contractors, including military and defense contractors, who will not see their pay frozen. Our dedicated public servants are willing to do their part, but they should not bear this burden alone.”
The pay freeze proposal comes as Obama works with congressional Republicans to extend tax-cuts for every American family, a move that would also introduce new spending into the economy. The issue boiled over to the point that Senate GOP members said they would block any legislation until the tax-cut situation was resolved.
“Republicans have pleaded with Democrats to put aside their wish-list, to focus on the things Americans want us to focus on,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R.-KY, said on the Senate floor. “They've ignored us. The voters repudiated their agenda at the polls. They've ignored them.”
Seeing that things were at an impasse, Obama reached out to the Republicans, and in return for extending Bush-era tax cuts to certain wealthier individuals, asked for an extension in unemployment benefits and another year of his “Making Work Pay” tax cut for working households.
“Our hope and expectation is that unemployment insurance--something that traditionally has had bi-partisan support—is something that once again will be dealt with as part of a broader package,” Obama told The Washington Post.
However, his potential alliance with the Republicans is not been embraced by Hill Democrats, who still want to see a repeal of the Bush tax cuts. House Democrats, in a flurry designed to demonstrate support for the middle class, passed, in a 234-188 vote, a bill that would make the tax cuts permanent for families earning less than $250,000 a year but ending the cuts spawned during the Bush years for the wealthiest two percent of Americans.
“I look forward to working with my Congressional colleagues and President Obama to implement additional steps to reduce our deficit, starting with allowing tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to expire,” Edwards said.