WASHINGTON — Amidst "fiscal cliff" discussions that have centered largely on tax rates and spending cuts, Democrats are beginning to coalesce publicly around a proposal for more stimulus money as part of a compromise package.
"It is clear that the economy is not moving as quickly as we would like," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday. "It's not a zero-sum game. We need to continue to invest in growing the economy."
As part of his initial fiscal cliff offer, President Barack Obama has proposed roughly $200 billion in stimulus measures, including an extension of the payroll tax cut, investment in infrastructure, and an extension of unemployment insurance benefits.
"We are 100 percent serious about these provisions, whether they get included as part of this" or not, said one Democratic Senate leadership aide. "I think if they get dropped out of the deal, you can expect them to come up separately."
But in the high-stakes discussions to avert the rash of tax hikes and spending cuts set to go into effect at the end of the year, the new stimulus money has not received prominent billing.
"Privately, it's not the main focus," the aide said. "They're much more focused on revenues and the debt ceiling."
Nevertheless, Republicans will hope to capitalize on the stimulus proposals to characterize Democrats as unserious about spending cuts.
"Try to get one Democrat to say 'stimulus' in an interview," said Gerrit Lansing, digital director for the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, which plans to attack Democratic members of Congress on spending and the stimulus proposals in particular. "They can't, because they know it doesn't work."
But Democrats who support the measures do hope they will feature more prominently in the public discourse, too — if for the opposite reason.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown rated the inclusion of some stimulus measures in a fiscal cliff package as "very important."
"The public cares way more about jobs than they do what we do on this fiscal stuff," Brown said. "Fiscal stuff matters, but they care about jobs. That's been not enough of this discussion."