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Leading House Democrat says job creation, not deficit cutting, is immediate priority

As both the House and Senate work on budget blueprints for the new fiscal year, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, emphasized on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday that for his party “our priority is job growth” -- not cutting the debt or annual budget deficits.

“Right now our big problem is to sustain the economic recovery. We’ve seen momentum in the job market and the last thing we want do right now is to put the brakes on that,” Van Hollen told NBC’s David Gregory. “In fact one half of this year’s deficit is due to unemployment.”

Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Kevin McCarthy visit Meet the Press to discuss the future of the budget battle and what each member's party will request for an agreement.

According to the most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12 million Americans were unemployed and seeking work in February, while another 885,000 weren’t looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.

“What the president is saying is our focus right now should be to get people back to work, sustain the recovery – and then reduce the deficit in a measured, balanced way,” Van Hollen said. He added that President Barack Obama’s budget proposal for the new fiscal year which begins on Oct. 1 will put budget deficits “on a sustained, downward trajectory.”

Appearing alongside Van Hollen, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican Whip, complained that “the Democrats’ budget never balances,” while his party’s Fiscal Year 2014 blueprint will achieve a balance of spending and revenues by the end of the ten-year forecasting period.

“The president has a different belief than we do. He believes deficits don’t matter. We do,” McCarthy said.   

The California Republican defended the House Republicans’ budget plan which assumes that Obama’s health care overhaul, the 2010 Affordable Care Act, will be repealed. “Budgets are blueprints and priorities,” he explained. “We think Obamacare should be repealed. A majority of Americans agree with us. But we also think tax reform should happen so you can grow the economy.”

McCarthy added that persistently high federal debt would crowd out private sector borrowing and inhibit the growth of businesses.

Van Hollen said that the Democrats’ proposal would eventually achieve a balanced budget “out in the future, around 2040.” But he reiterated that for now the urgent need is job creation. The House Republican budget plan “will slow job growth at exactly the wrong time,” he contended.

Meanwhile on ABC’s This Week, House Speaker John Boehner again rejected the idea of additional tax increases, on top of the ones that Obama signed into law on Jan 2.

“The president believes that we have to have more taxes from the American people. We’re not going to get very far,” Boehner said. “The president got his tax hikes….. The talk about raising revenue is over. It’s time to deal with the spending problem.”

Boehner agreed with Obama’s recent remark that the federal government doesn’t face an imminent debt crisis. “We do not have an immediate debt crisis – but we all know that we have one looming,” Boehner said. “And we have one looming because we have entitlement programs that are not sustainable in their current form.”

Another prominent Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said on Fox News Sunday that Republicans “would be glad to look at tax reform that generates additional revenues. And that doesn’t mean increasing rates, it means closing loopholes, and that also means arranging our tax system so that we have economic growth. And I think we have been saying that since day one.”