Democrats’ budget agenda includes immigration reform & farm bill

Moving on from the government shutdown and debt ceiling fiasco, Democrats are pushing House Republicans to take up the Senate-approved immigration reform and farm bill in addition to passing a “balanced” and “responsible” budget by the end of the year.

“A lot more to do,” said Senate Majority Harry Reid. “Let’s move on. What is the big issue out there? People complain about the deficit? How about let’s do immigration – $1 trillion? Something that’s fair and reasonable that this country’s needed for a long time.”

Democrats stressed the immigration reform can help the nation reduce its deficits, citing economists who estimated that granting legal status to undocumented immigrants – who would be required to pay a fine and back taxes – would help the U.S. grow by 5% over the next 20 years, amounting to about $1.4 trillion in economic growth.

“The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do. And it’s sitting there, waiting for the House to pass it,” said President Barack Obama.

Obama and Reid both expressed a willingness to negotiate the immigration bill with House Republicans – as long as “they’ll come to the table in good faith with the desire to compromise”.

“If the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let’s hear them. Let’s start the negotiations. But let’s not leave this problem to keep festering for another year or two years or three years,” said Obama. “This can and should get done by the end of this year.”

Obama also urged the House to pass the Senate’s farm bill, underscoring the importance of keeping food stamps to protect “vulnerable children, adults in times of need” as well as provisions that fund rural development for the long-term. (House Republicans passed a farm bill in July that imposed steep cuts to food stamps.)

“Again, the Senate’s already passed a solid bipartisan bill. It’s gotten support from Democrats and Republicans. It’s sitting in the House, waiting for passage. If House Republicans have ideas that they think would improve the farm bill, let’s see them. Let’s negotiate. What are we waiting for? Let’s get this done,” said Obama.

As for the federal budget, Obama said Congress should find a way to balance the need for long-term deficit reduction and policies that promote economic growth.

“We shouldn’t approach this process of creating a budget as an ideological exercise – just cutting for the sake of cutting. The issue’s not growth versus fiscal responsibility; we need both,” said Obama. “We need a budget that deals with the issues that most Americans are focused on – creating more good jobs that pay better wages.”

Obama said he is willing to consider reforms to Medicare and Social Security to reduce the nation’s long-term debts. But he also pointed to the need for corporate tax reforms, especially the closing of special interest tax loopholes, to generate tax revenues that fund education and infrastructure investments that help grow the economy.

“The key now is a budget that cuts out the things that we don’t need, close these corporate tax loopholes that don’t help us create jobs and freeze up resources for the things that do help us grow, like education and infrastructure and research,” said Obama. “So passing a budget, immigration reform, farm bill. Those are three specific things that would make a huge difference in our economy right now, and we can get them done by the end of the year. If our focus is on what’s good for the American people.”

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