Democratic leaders in Congress are struggling under the twin pressures of a rising jobless rate and a soaring federal budget deficit. The Congressional Budget Office reported this week that the deficit hit $1.4 trillion in the fiscal year that ended in September. Representing nearly 10 percent of the overall economy, the deficit is the highest since World War II. Polls show the public is increasingly concerned about the rising tide of red ink, particularly as lawmakers contemplate a vast and expensive restructuring of the nation's health-care system.
But many Democratic leaders in Congress tend to view joblessness as the more immediate political concern. The entire House and many senators will face voters next November, and some political analysts say Democrats stand a good chance of losing control of the lower house unless they develop a more effective plan for creating jobs.