U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan said Tuesday he voted against the budget deal approved by the House last week because it continues cuts that are hurting the economy.
And he warned that an even more important vote will be early next year on whether to raise the federal debt ceiling.
The Madison Democrat also told the State Journal that the House could take up immigration reform this spring. A bipartisan immigration bill, which has already passed the Senate, would allow a path to legal residency or citizenship for millions of undocumented residents.
Pocan was one of just 32 Democrats — and the only member of the state delegation — to vote against the budget deal approved 332-94 last week in the House.
The $1.14 trillion proposal was crafted by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. It faces a vote later this week in the Senate.
Pocan praised Ryan for getting support for the spending package from his more conservative colleagues. But he voted against it, Pocan said, because it continues some across-the-board cuts that have cost thousands of jobs.
“I think most people who voted for the budget, didn’t vote for the budget, they voted for the process — that we finally got something done,” said Pocan, who sits on House budget committee.
He said it would have been “disingenuous” for him to support the deal. “I’ve spent the year .... saying the No. 1 priority is to get the economy going and create jobs. The sequester kills jobs.”
Pocan, citing a nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report, said about three-fourths of the federal budget deficit is due to “ unemployment and underemployment.”
He added, “Ultimately, the budget doesn’t do what we need it to do to get the economy going.”
On immigration, Pocan said he has seen positive signs from both Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner that the Republican majority may be ready to tackle immigration reform, another issue that has split the GOP caucus. Pocan said Ryan told him a few weeks back that his top priorities were the budget deal and immigration reform.
“I really feel we can get immigration reform done still because Paul has been completely consistent on the need for immigration reform,” Pocan said.
The CBO has said the pending immigration bill would increase employment and economic output and cut the budget deficit.
Pocan said the next big battle will be Feb. 7, when the House decides whether to raise the federal debt ceiling. Failing to do so, Pocan said, could lead to downgraded U.S. credit and higher borrowing costs.