Rep. Ellison: ‘We Have Seen Very Serious Dropping of Our Deficit Over the Past Year’

By Elizabeth Harrington | March 20, 2013 | 8:54 AM EDT

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) (AP File Photo)

( - Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said the debt and deficit are national  priorities, but to keep in mind that “we have seen very serious dropping of our deficit over the past year.”

“First of all, you’re not going to find any Democrats up here saying the debt and deficit is not a priority,” Ellison said Tuesday during a press conference on Capitol Hill.  “Of course it’s a priority.”

“But you cannot pursue all priorities at once,” he said.  “That’s what makes them priorities. The top priority needs to be jobs.”

“But let’s bear in mind and never forget that we have seen very serious dropping of our deficit over the past year,” Ellison added.  “We’re making progress on that front.”

“And we should bear in mind that we’re 35th in debt-to-GDP ratio in the world.  So, I mean it’s a priority,” he said.  “It absolutely is.  And we need to manage it. But the real first priority needs to be getting everybody back to work,” Ellison said.

According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the deficit for fiscal year 2013 will be an estimated $845 billion, down from $1.1 trillion in fiscal 2012.

But the $845 billion estimate is still much higher than before President Barack Obama assumed office. In 2008, the deficit was $458.5 billion.  But under Obama, the deficit has never been lower than a trillion dollars. It was $1.4 trillion in 2009, $1.3 trillion in 2010 and 2011, and $1.1 trillion in 2012.

Ellison joined House Budget Ranking Member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) at a press conference on Tuesday to criticize the Republican budget proposal as a “pathway to poverty.”

The Democrats said a budget should be a “statement of values and priorities.”  When asked Van Hollen, whose budget proposal would not balance until 2040, whether balancing the budget is a priority for Democrats he said, “Our highest priority is putting people back to work.”

“What we do is we focus right away on putting people back to work, rather than what the Republican budget does, which is put a brake on the growing economy,” Van Hollen said.  “There will be 750,000 fewer jobs in this country at the end of this calendar year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, if you adopt the Republican approach.”

“We want to get at that in terms of balance; we say let’s get our deficits down in a steady and predictable way, in a balanced way, which we do,” he said.

While the Democrats agreed that reducing the debt and deficit are a priority, their plan asks for additional stimulus spending.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) proposal purports to balance the federal budget in 10 years, by cutting spending by $4.6 trillion.  His budget also assumes the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which Democrats said Tuesday is unlikely to happen.

“The Ryan budget doesn’t come to balance in 10 years, unless you can tell me there are votes in this Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” said Rep. Becerra.  “In fact, if the Ryan budget doesn’t succeed in getting Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it is completely out of alignment.”