Reid on Balancing the Budget: ‘The President Asked for Money for Stimulating the Economy’

By Elizabeth Harrington | December 20, 2012 | 1:54 PM EST

House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio) stands behind Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) outside the White House after meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday, April 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

( – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “We have to make sure that the country is expanding” with stimulus spending, when asked Thursday what year his fiscal plan would balance the budget. asked Reid during a press conference on Capitol Hill about both his and the president’s plans to avert the so-called fiscal cliff at the end of the year. asked: “The president said yesterday that under his proposal he’s put forward it would ‘stabilize our deficit and debt for a decade.’ Does that mean that we would see more than $1 trillion deficits for the next 10 years? And what year would we see a balanced budget under your plan or his plan?”

“Well, it’s quite the opposite,” Reid said. “Even a fiscal hawk like Kent Conrad [D-N.D.] realizes that we have to do something with the deficit.”

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“But,” Reid said, “We also have to make sure that the country is expanding.

“And that’s why the president wants to make sure that we take care of the people who’ve been out of work for such a long period of time, renew the unemployment compensation,” Reid said.

“That’s why the president asked for money for stimulating the economy,” he said.

“The president’s plan is one that virtually all economists except Grover Norquist agrees with,” Reid added.

On Wednesday President Barack Obama said he has offered a proposal—which included $1.6 trillion in tax hikes on the wealthy as well as at least $50 billion in additional stimulus spending—that is “balanced.”

“If you look at the package that I’ve put forward, it is a balanced package by any definition,” he said. “We have put forward real cuts in spending that are hard to do in every category.

“And by any measure, by any traditional calculation, by the measures that Republicans themselves have used in the past, this would be a -- as large a piece of deficit reduction as we’ve seen in the last 20 years,” Obama said. “And if you combine that with the increased revenue from the wealthy paying a little bit more, then you actually have something that would stabilize our deficit and debt for a decade, for 10 years.”

Under President Obama, the government has operated on budget deficits topping $1 trillion for four straight years.

Talks to avert the fiscal cliff—or the automatic across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts to take effect on Jan. 1—have reached a standstill, leading House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to float “Plan B.”

Under Boehner’s proposal, which will be voted on in the House Thursday afternoon, the marginal tax rate for people earning $1 million or more per year would rise to 39.6 percent, and certain deductions and loopholes would end.  The White House has rejected the proposal.

Reid and other leading Senate Democrats said during a press conference on the fiscal cliff Thursday that “Plan B” would be “dead on arrival,” in the Senate, urging Boehner to resume talks with the president.