Obama Meets With GOP Lawmakers To Discuss Deficit, Health Programs
On Wednesday, President Obama met with the House GOP caucus to convince them that he is serious about curbing the rising costs of federal health programs as part of a deal to reduce the federal deficit, the Washington Post reports.
Wednesday's lunch was the latest in a series of meetings with members of Congress to continue his push for a grand bargain to reduce the nation's debt. Republicans who attended the meeting said Obama appeared earnest in his willingness to pursue a deal that would include cuts to federal entitlement programs, despite the objections of some Democratic lawmakers.
However, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said that Obama insisted on a deal that would also raise taxes, which is a nonstarter for Republicans, who say Obama already got more tax revenue in the fiscal cliff deal (Montgomery, Washington Post, 3/13).
Obama Suggests Deal Might Be Out of Reach
Prior to his meeting with House Republicans, Obama expressed doubt that a deficit-reduction deal could be reached with congressional Republicans, Reuters reports.
In an interview with ABC News, Obama said, "It may be that ideologically, if their position is, 'We can't do any revenue,' or, 'We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid' -- if that's the position, then we're probably not going to be able to get a deal" (Rampton, Reuters, 3/13).
Obama also said that his goal regarding the federal budget is to fix the economy and bring in more revenue, "not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance."
He dismissed House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) latest spending blueprint, which would achieve a balanced budget by 2023, saying, "We're not gonna balance the budget in 10 years." He noted that in order to get a balanced budget, Ryan had to "voucher-ize Medicare" and "slash deeply into programs like Medicaid," which Obama opposes (Chumley, Washington Times, 3/13).
House Panel Approves Ryan Budget
Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee on Wednesday voted 22-17 along party lines to approve Ryan's FY 2014 budget proposal, The Hill's "On The Money" reports. The plan now heads to the full House, where it is expected to be put to a vote next week (Wasson, "On The Money," The Hill, 3/14).
Ryan's budget proposal would balance the federal budget over the next decade by repealing the Affordable Care Act, transitioning Medicare to a premium-support program and turning Medicaid into a block-grant system. The budget proposal calls for $4.6 trillion in savings, with about $2.7 trillion coming from federal health care programs (California Healthline, 3/13).
GOP Seek Ways To Repeal ACA, Senate Blocks CR Amendment
Although most Republicans are backing Ryan's budget proposal, some GOP lawmakers have said Ryan's budget does not go far enough to repeal the ACA, The Hill reports. In an attempt to rectify that, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) earlier this week introduced an amendment to the continuing resolution extension bill that would temporarily defund the ACA (Bolton, The Hill, 3/13).
However, the Senate on Wednesday voted 45-52 to reject that amendment (AP/U-T San Diego, 3/13). The amendment by Cruz would have banned the law's funding until the economy was growing at the "historic" level of at least 3% to 4% (Cox , "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 3/13).
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), in an interview Wednesday on Sean Hannity's radio show, said the House will hold another vote to repeal or defund the ACA "in the coming months," The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Boehner noted that he decided not to hold vote to defund the law as part of the House's CR because he did not want to jeopardize the nation's credit. "The government runs out of money on March 27 and our goal is to have a spending fight," he said, adding, "There will be opportunities ahead, but do you want [to] risk the full faith and credit of the United States government over ObamaCare? That's a very tough argument to make."
The House has held 33 votes over the last two years aimed at repealing or defunding the health reform law, but efforts have stagnated since the Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the law and President Obama's re-election (Strauss/Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/13).
Republican lawmakers have to walk a fine line on how hard to push for a full repeal of the law. According to The Hill, "trying in vain" to repeal the ACA could hurt recent GOP initiatives to appeal to minority voters. In addition, several GOP governors have warmed to the law and have signed on to its Medicaid expansion (Bolton, The Hill, 3/14).
Senate Appropriators Lift Hold on Continuing Resolution
In related news, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday moved forward on the House-approved CR extension bill (HR 933) to fund the federal government through Sept. 30, after GOP senators lifted their hold on the measure, The Hill's "Floor Action Blog" reports.
Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) had delayed a motion by Reid to limit Senate debate on the measure, saying they were not given adequate time to review the 587-page legislation. The Senate hopes to finish work on the measure this week and send it back to the House for a final vote (Cox , "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 3/13).
Senate Democrats Unveil FY 2014 Budget Proposal
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats on Wednesday unveiled their FY 2014 budget proposal, which would cut $1.85 trillion from the federal deficit, including $275 billion in health care savings, Modern Healthcare reports (Daly, Modern Healthcare, 3/13).
Unlike Ryan's FY 2014 budget proposal, Democrats' spending blueprint -- proposed by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) -- would lower the federal budget deficit to an amount equal to 2.2% of gross domestic product by 2023 (Peterson, Wall Street Journal, 3/13).
Murray would achieve that target through an equal mix of new tax revenues and spending cuts, including a $265 billion reduction to Medicare and a $10 billion cut to Medicaid (Attais, CQ Roll Call, 3/13).
Murray said the proposal puts everything on the table, but she added, "we do it in a responsible way that preserves, protects and strengthens the programs, like Medicare and Medicaid that American people strongly support."
Murray's proposal also would replace the $1.2 trillion mandated cuts under sequestration, including a 2% cut to Medicare reimbursement rates, with a mix of targeted spending cuts and new tax revenue (Modern Healthcare, 3/13). In contrast, Ryan's latest proposal would leave the cuts in place (Wall Street Journal, 3/13).
Republican Reactions to Budget Proposal
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee -- criticized Murray's budget proposal for not making what he considers to be necessary reductions to the ACA and federal entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid (Modern Healthcare, 3/13).
Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) -- a member of the Senate Budget Committee -- criticized the proposal for not producing a balanced budget. "I think 'balanced' has become a code word for some equal amounts of increased taxes and spending, but it has not become a sign that we will actually try to balance the budget," Crapo said (Wall Street Journal, 3/13).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.