House Speaker Boehner Pushing Entitlement Reform in Deficit Debate
On Monday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) insisted that significant reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and other federal entitlement programs must be part of the ongoing efforts to lower the budget deficit and debt, CQ Today reports (Schatz, CQ Today, 5/9).
In a speech at the Economic Club of New York, Boehner said it is essential to pair a planned increase in the federal debt ceiling with a level of spending cuts -- which he suggested must be in the trillions of dollars -- that exceeds the amount of the country's borrowing power (Hulse, New York Times, 5/9).
According to the AP/San Francisco Chronicle, it will be "virtually impossible" to enact such large spending cuts without addressing the nation's major benefits programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans already have laid out proposals to overhaul Medicaid and privatize Medicare in the House-approved fiscal year 2012 budget resolution (H Con Res 34) (Taylor/Gross, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/9).
Under the Medicare proposal in the Republicans' budget resolution, beneficiaries would receive fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance (California Healthline, 5/9). Under the Medicaid proposal, states would receive fixed annual block grants of $11,000 per Medicaid beneficiary to use as they choose.
The two proposals are part of House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) broader budget blueprint to lower federal spending by $6 trillion over a decade and repeal and defund the federal health reform law (California Healthline, 4/29).
During his speech, Boehner said, "To increase the debt limit without simultaneously addressing the drivers of our debt ... would be monumentally arrogant and massively irresponsible." He noted, "We should be talking about cuts of trillions, not just billions," adding, "They should be actual cuts and program reforms, not broad deficit or debt targets that punt the tough questions to the future" (Berman, The Hill, 5/9).
Boehner also challenged Democrats to join his party in "honest conversations" about the preserving Medicare, adding that everything should be considered during the discussions, except for tax increases, which Democrats favor (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/9).
Kyl Pledges To Push for $6T in Cuts
On Monday, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) echoed Boehner's assertion that large spending cuts must be a part of the debate on raising the national debt limit, adding that Republicans will push for $6 trillion in proposed spending cuts over the next decade, Politico reports. That figure is in line with the proposal in the House GOP's budget blueprint (Raju, Politico, 5/9).
Kyl -- who is the top Republican lawmaker in ongoing bipartisan debt-limit talks with Vice President Biden and other leading Democrats -- said that a Medicare overhaul proposal likely would be a part of the agreement, even if it does not resemble the proposal in the House GOP blueprint (Dennis, Roll Call, 5/10).
He said the Medicare overhaul agreement "probably won't satisfy Republicans in terms of what we think is necessary," adding, "I think it's pretty difficult for the Democrats to simply take it all off the table" (Politico, 5/9).
Obama To Join Debate This Week
Meanwhile, President Obama plans to meet with top Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the debt-limit issue at the White House in the coming week, an indication that the White House is seeking to edge out Republicans in the "figh[t] to win over voters" who have concerns about excessive spending in Washington, D.C., but are "unconvinced by proposals to [rein] in entitlement reforms," The Hill reports (Wasson, The Hill, 5/9). On Wednesday, Obama plans to meet with Senate Democrats, one day before meeting with Senate Republicans.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the meetings are intended to discuss a "balanced approach" to legislation about the economic future of the country.
According to National Journal, the White House also might be entering the debate on the debt-reduction and budget negotiations early in an attempt to avoid "a replay of the last-minute theatrics" that overshadowed the debate on a budget resolution while a government shutdown loomed last month (Kaplan, National Journal, 5/9).
Senate Republicans To Unveil Competing Budget Blueprint Today
On Tuesday, a group of conservative Senate Republicans plans to unveil a budget blueprint that would compete with the House GOP plan and a Senate Democratic plan currently under development, Roll Call reports.
According to Roll Call, the senators -- Marco Rubio (Fla.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) -- appear to be taking advantage of a quirk in Senate rules that enables any member to introduce a budget resolution and seek a vote on a motion to proceed. According to Toomey, the blueprint is designed to balance the budget within nine years, which is a shorter timeline than the one proposed in the House-approved budget resolution (Roll Call, 5/9).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.