It's not just taxes: Benefit cuts divide Dems

It's not just about taxes. There's another big obstacle to overcome as Congress and President Barack Obama work to skirt the fiscal cliff: deep divisions among Senate Democrats over whether to consider cuts to popular benefit programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
Associated Press
Nov 28, 2012

Much of the focus during negotiations seeking an alternative to $671 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts beginning in January has centered on whether Republicans would agree to raising taxes on the wealthy. Obama insists that tax increases on the wealthy must be part of any deal, even as White House officials concede that government benefit programs will have to be in the package too.

But even if GOP lawmakers agree to raise taxes, there is no guarantee Democrats can come up with enough votes in the Senate to cut benefit programs — as Republicans are demanding.

"We cannot come up with the solution for Medicare in the next two or three weeks," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. "It's too important, it's too serious, when it comes to this fiscal cliff debate."

Durbin has long said Democrats must be willing to discuss cuts to benefit programs in exchange for tax increases on the wealthy. But, he said Wednesday, the issue is too complicated to address in a short postelection session of Congress.

Republicans complain that Democrats are taking issues off the table, even as more GOP lawmakers are reluctantly considering tax increases.

"Democrats like to pretend as though they're the great protectors of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "They make solemn pledges all the time about how they won't even entertain a discussion about reform. What they don't say is that ignoring these programs is the surest way to guarantee their collapse."

There's a growing consensus among Senate Democrats and the White House that Social Security should be exempt from any deficit-reduction package. But some centrist Democrats in the Senate argue that fellow Democrats must be willing to consider cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in order to get concessions from Republicans on taxes.

"It has to be both — a significant revenue increase as well as spending cuts," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who is retiring as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said rising health care costs in Medicare and Medicaid are helping to drive future spending, making them an essential part of a long-term deficit-reduction package.

"I've been part of every bipartisan group here. We've always put everything on the table," Conrad said. "If you're going to solve this problem, you're going to have to deal with where the spending is and the revenue can be raised."

But senators like Baucus and Conrad increasingly are being drowned out by other Democrats emboldened by the recent election results to fight against benefit cuts.

"I think the election spoke very strongly about the fact that the vast majority of American people don't want to cut these programs," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

Further complicating the issue, some Democrats say they are willing to look for savings in programs like Medicare and Medicaid, as long as cuts don't lead to higher costs for beneficiaries. Obama's new health care law, for example, assumes more than $700 billion in Medicare savings over the next decade.

"I'm willing to look at ways of making the programs work better," Harkin said.

Congress and the White House are devoting the next three weeks to finding at least a bridge over the fiscal cliff by reducing the sudden jolt of higher taxes and spending cuts in January while laying a framework for addressing the nation's long-term financial problems next year.

Obama wants to let tax rates rise for wealthy families while sparing middle- and low-income taxpayers. Some Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, have said they were willing to consider making the wealthy pay more by reducing their tax breaks. But most Republicans in Congress adamantly oppose raising anyone's tax rates.

Negotiations are going slowly as each side waits for the other to make concessions.

Democrats already have tried to take Social Security off the table. White House press secretary Jay Carney said this week that changes to the massive retirement and disability program should be done separately from any plan to reduce the deficit. That's the same position taken by 28 Democratic senators and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in a letter to fellow senators in September.

"We will oppose including Social Security cuts for future or current beneficiaries in any deficit-reduction package," said the letter, which was signed by many top Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. In the House, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has taken the same position, not only on Social Security, but also on Medicare and Medicaid.

"There hasn't been the slightest suggestion about what they're going to do about the real problems, and that's entitlements," said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. "There's a certain cockiness that I've seen that is really astounding to me since we're basically in the same position we were before" the election.




Psst, Dog. The election IS over and Its Obama's fault now.

The Big Dog's back

What's Obama's fault? Oh, that the economy is improving? People feel more confident? Yeah, I agree with you, Obama's "fault".


Guess you do not read, listen or watch anything worth watching. People more confident? Confident their future looks less brighter than before yeah i would agree with that. Remember its Obama's ball, My advice is do not broadcast your political opinions too loud next year when the SHTF.


ya know I think the persons that feel the most confident are those that are receiving government wealfare yea four more years. I do not feel confident with my business as I feel he wants to take away from me to give to them.


It seems the very mention of welfare for the rich brings them out crying. Boo Hoo, we pay too much now. We won't create any jobs. We'll take our money and move to China...


"Only the little people pay taxes." Leona Helmsly.


Did not have a chance to read all the posts however I was wondering what about Obamacare? The CBO is projecting a cost of 1.9 trillion and will leave 30 million still uninsured. The number of uninsured may be low as there are many companies now announcing placing many employees at 28 or less hours per week. Maybe some of you may have noticed that AkzoNobel had an ad in this paper telling they would have a job fair as they were "seeking long term part time employees to work 16-28 hours per week"
In addition to the additional cost advised by the CBO let us not forget about the 650 billion in new taxes connected with Obamacare.

Ergo the 1.7 trillion in new taxes he wants from the rich will not even take care of Obamacare.

Although I am a conservative I do feel we need additional taxes however we also need spending cuts that will began at the same time as the new taxes we do not have a tax increase starting 1/1/13 and then say that the spending cuts will kick in in 2017 or some later date as it does not seem to happen that way.

Also when the government advises of a tax cut it is usually not a real cut just spending less than they had wanted.If we spend 10 billion for a budget item this year and they want 14 billion for that item next year but then cut it to 12 billion then they consider that a budget cut. That is if we have a budget which we haven't had since Obama became president


Never fear, Obozocare includes over twenty NEW taxes!!!

Free Man

want to save tax money ? close nasa plumbrook.


"And—here’s the crucial point—every single fiat currency that has existed prior to the current batch was eventually destroyed by its government."

"Add it all up, and U.S. debt now comes to about $60 trillion, or $800,000 per family of four, a clearly unsustainable burden. When our trading partners figure out that we’re no longer solvent, they’ll stop lending us money (that is, they’ll use their dollars to buy euros or yen or gold rather than U.S. bonds), and the value of the dollar will plunge. The process has already begun, with decreasing demand for dollars sending the value of the dollar down by more than a third in this decade. But this is just the beginning."


Excuse me....I am in charge....the rich will now pay their fair share of taxes. Anyone making over $250,000 in income will pay for it with an increase in their personal taxes. Don't like it...move to Russia. The middle class will not have their taxes raised nor will businesses. We will no longer be funding places like Pakistan, India or Somolia. They can now fend for themselves. I am tired of their junk.

As for Isreal and the rest...they can just fight it out and we will be friends with the winners. Too bad, so sad. I am tired of hearing it. Isreal stop whining, I don't want to hear it any more. Do your own dirty work. I am not doing it for you any more.

As for Iran, stop yelling and stop threatening or I will kick your living arse. Got it. I HAVE the bomb so get off your high horse or I will blow your little country off the map. Be nice.

Bring the troops home. I am reopening all the coastline bases on our own shores and re stocking them with our own troops.

Every time the congress doesn't move something along or give me grief, I am going on TV and telling the entire country in PLAIN ENGLISH exactly why and what and who held it up and why you did it. Then I am going to encourage them to call the people who screwed up. So learn to cooperate with one another or you are going to spend a lot of time on the phone.

No more stupid grants. That stops not and NO MORE EARMARK MONEY. Oh, tell the lobbyists to go home. You take lobby money and I will send out a newletter to your state capital telling who you took it from and why. Then you can donate it to the fund to pay back China.

Listen, North Korea. I want to be friends, but if you try and shoot ONE missle to our shores from yours, make it a good one, it will be your last shot, Got it? Good. I don't take prisoners.

As for China. Figure out what we owe you and we will start paying it back.

To any company with overseas businesses. You better start figuring what a new tariff will cost you, VS what bringing the business back here will cost you because in 6 months I am starting a tariff that will increase ever six months that your business is overseas and that you could have brought it home. I want to see America work, not the Chinese.

We are going to start buying oil from Canada and Russia and digging our own. We are also going to start using corn oil so start builing factories to utilize it. Brazil does it and it works. So start building the factories for it.

We are going to redo roads immediately and bridges. We start in the south and work north as the weather allows. Get busy.
That's it. Get to work.

Meeing adjourned


@ wiredmama222:

So your planned political-economic model is a totalitarian-authoritarian regime like Cuba, N. Korea, Nazi Germany, et al?

Any figures on the casualties during the third civil war?


Ah the wonderfulness of an anti-semite, so refreshing!!!!

Meeing adjourned


What's an anti-semite? Jews and Arabs hate each other and guess what. They are both semitic.
Sem·ite (smt)
1. A member of a group of Semitic-speaking peoples of the Near East and northern Africa, including the Arabs, Arameans, Babylonians, Carthaginians, Ethiopians, Hebrews, and Phoenicians.