Obama, Boehner Meet Privately on Strategies To Avert Sequestration
President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) met privately at the White House on Sunday to discuss the "fiscal cliff," renewing optimism that a deal to avert looming mandated spending cuts under sequestration could be reached by the end of the month, the New York Times' "The Caucus" reports (Knowlton/Calmes, "The Caucus," New York Times, 12/9).
The private meeting, which marked the first time Obama and Boehner have met in person since mid-November, occurred after Boehner on Friday said that no progress has been made toward a compromise (O'Keefe/Kane, Washington Post, 12/9).
Negotiations between Congressional Republicans and Obama have been in a stalemate over the amount entitlement reforms and tax revenue that should be included in a fiscal cliff deal (Flaherty, AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/9).
Although no details of the discussion between Obama and Boehner have been released, both the White House and Boehner's office issued statements that said "the lines of communication remain open" ("The Caucus," New York Times, 12/9).
Some GOP Lawmakers Open to Raising Taxes, Deal Hangs on Spending Changes
A few hours before the White House meeting, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" said Republicans increasingly are considering conceding on tax rates to allow negotiations to focus on entitlement programs, the Washington Post's "The Fix" reports.
"There is a growing group of folks that are looking at this and realizing that we don't have a lot of cards on the tax issue before year end," Corker said, adding that if Republicans concede to Obama on higher tax rates then "all of a sudden the shift goes back to entitlements" (Sullivan , "The Fix," Washington Post, 12/9).
However, there is little bipartisan agreement on how to handle reductions to federal health programs, according to CQ HealthBeat (Jenks, CQ HealthBeat, 12/10).
Parties Still Divided on Entitlement Reforms
Democrats and Republicans still appear divided over entitlement reforms and tax increases, as evidenced by a discussion between two Republicans and two Democrats on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," the Washington Post's "The Fix" reports.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) butted heads on the future of federal health programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. Stabenow said that Democrats already have made meaningful spending reductions and reforms to Medicare. Coburn said that "it is dishonest and beneath anybody in Washington" to think that the fiscal cliff can be solved without addressing entitlements.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said his party still is opposed to raising taxes on higher-income U.S. residents, arguing that doing so would result in lost jobs. "No Republican wants to vote for a rate tax increase," he said.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said that pointing to entitlement programs as drivers of the current fiscal issues is inaccurate. "[T]o blame the three programs that we're talking about -- Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security -- as the drivers of this deficit is a mistake." Instead, he said the blame lays with war spending and "financial institutions that ... abused the American people" (Sullivan , "The Fix," Washington Post, 12/9).
The Fiscal Cliff and Medicaid
Although Medicaid is shielded from cuts under sequestration, the Obama administration could be forced to find some minor savings from the program to give Republicans the entitlement savings they want, Politico reports.
Among the biggest Medicaid cost-savings options negotiators could consider are:
- Blended rates, which would create one payment formula for Medicaid, CHIP and individuals covered under the new health insurance exchanges, resulting in $14.9 billion in savings, according to a White House estimate;
- Reducing the amount of Medicaid provider taxes that states can collect, producing about $26.3 billion in savings;
- Eliminating the Affordable Care Act's temporary bonus payments to Medicaid primary care providers, resulting in $13 billion in savings;
- Improving care management for individuals eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, producing between $5 billion and $12 billion in savings; and
- Extending the Medicare competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment to Medicaid, generating between $4.2 billion and $5 billion in savings (Millman, Politico, 12/9).