Yeah, Obama and the Democrats are on our side, they’re fighting for us, right? If you believe that I’ve got a bridge in Minneapolis I can sell you.
House Democrats came away from a closed-door meeting with President Obama on Thursday expressing openness to his proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare, after he assured them he would never cut entitlement benefits unless Republicans yield on tax increases.
After the meeting with Obama, several key Democrats expressed an openness to entitlement benefit cuts as part of a broader budget bill that includes higher taxes. Their statements run counter to the hoary conventional wisdom in Washington that Democrats are just as stubbornly opposed to cutting safety net spending as Republicans are to higher taxes.
“I’m willing to keep my powder dry until I see what’s on the table,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told reporters. “It’s the context that matters to me. I’m not willing to absolutely rule anything in or out. … But I’m not willing to give anything away for free.”
“I’m certainly willing to listen,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. “I would be willing to listen if he says there are some exceptions. So whether you could do a Chained CPI and exempt those who live under a certain income — I don’t know. We haven’t taken it very seriously right now in our caucus.”
The two major benefit cuts Obama has publicly offered Republicans are a reduction in the growth of Social Security benefits via a policy known as Chained CPI, and further means-testing of Medicare, which would require higher-income seniors to pay for a larger share of their health care cost.
In an important indication of where Democrats stand, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters after the meeting Thursday that as long as “Chained CPI does not hurt the poor or the very old, then it is something to put on the table.”
Some liberals in the caucus, like Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY), say they strongly oppose any such cuts to entitlement benefits. But even they openly admit that a significant number of Democrats likely won’t join their opposition.
SOURCE: TPM March 15, 2013 (excerpt)