Debt Panel Not Expected To Meet Deadlines for Finalizing Deficit Plan
Over the weekend, members of the debt panel indicated that the group likely will not reach an agreement by the end of Monday, its deadline for submitting a deficit-reduction plan to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring, the AP/Washington Post reports.
In several television interviews, Democrats and Republicans on the panel expressed doubt at the possibility of compromise. Republicans said Democrats want to rely too heavily on new tax revenue and will not accept significant cuts to entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid (AP/Washington Post, 11/20). Democrats said Republicans largely are unwilling to allow new taxes to balance spending cuts (Lipton, New York Times, 11/20).
Aides to panel members said that the group's budget talks have ended. "Put a bow on it. It's done," an aide to a GOP panel member said (AP/Washington Post, 11/20).
If the panel does not finalize an agreement before Thanksgiving, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over 10 years will be implemented beginning in 2013 (New York Times, 11/20).
Democrats Reject Another GOP Offer
On Friday, Republicans -- who surmised that a bipartisan plan was unreachable -- offered a $640 billion measure, Politico reports. However, Democrats rejected it out of hand, saying it featured inadequate tax revenue (Sherman/Raju, Politico, 11/18).
The proposal would have cut domestic agency budgets and instituted pay freezes, among other initiatives. It included one small tax increase for owners of corporate jets (Montgomery, Washington Post, 11/18). A Democratic aide said the plan "didn't get rejected, it got laughed at." The aide added, "The ratio of spending cuts to revenue in this deal is 200 to 1" (Politico, 11/18).
Lawmakers Might Try To Block Cuts
Some members of Congress want to prevent the automatic cuts from taking effect if the panel cannot reach an agreement, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are developing legislation to prevent cuts to defense spending. Meanwhile, House Republicans are considering similar initiatives, and Democrats have pledged that they will not allow domestic programs to be the only source of savings.
However, top lawmakers -- including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) -- have said the cuts should be carried out. Boehner said he feels "bound" by the debt agreement made last summer that established the cuts. In addition, President Obama has told members of the debt committee that he "will not accept any measure that attempts to turn off" the automatic reductions (Fram, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 11/21).
Most Residents Oppose Cuts to Medicare, Poll Finds
Just 12% of U.S. residents support "major" cuts to Medicare and Social Security as part of deficit-reduction initiatives, according to a McClatchy-Marist Institute for Public Opinion poll, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
The poll, which surveyed 1,026 adults, found that more than four out of five respondents believe the debt panel should avoid significant cuts to entitlement programs.
However, the poll found that young people and non-white residents were more likely to support Medicare cuts.
According to data, almost one out of three non-white respondents favored large-scale cuts, compared with only 12% of whites. Meanwhile, 30% of people under age 30 expressed support for significant cuts, compared with just 20% of people ages 30 to 59 and 10% of people ages 60 and older, the poll found (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/18).
Sen. Sanders Warns Obama
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is withholding his support for Obama in the 2012 presidential election based on the president's willingness to consider Medicare cuts, Roll Call reports.
Sanders said he wants a firm commitment from Obama that Medicare and Social Security will be protected from cuts. He also noted that the president's position could cost him votes from progressives (Drucker, Roll Call, 11/18).
No Debt Agreement Means More Work on Key Programs
If a debt agreement is not reached, House and Senate leaders will have to take swift action on several key health programs that they hoped would be addressed by the debt panel, Roll Call reports.
Because the panel is unlikely to offer a plan to Congress, lawmakers must act quickly to address several issues, including a fix to the sustainable growth rate formula that calculates reimbursement for Medicare physicians (Shiner/Stanton, Roll Call, 11/21).
The most recent "doc-fix" bill, enacted in December 2010, is scheduled to expire on Jan. 1, 2012, at which point physicians face a nearly 30% payment rate cut (California Healthline, 11/10).
According to Roll Call, with the expected failure of the debt panel, House and Senate leaders will have to move on individual legislation for each issue before lawmakers adjourn for recess in December (Roll Call, 11/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.