Obama Urges Democrats To Be Willing To Accept Changes to Entitlements
In a meeting with Senate Democrats on Tuesday, President Obama acknowledged that Democrats might need to accept changes to entitlement programs in order to reach a deficit-reduction deal with Republicans, Politico reports.
During the meeting, which was part of Obama's push to get lawmakers to reach a "grand bargain" on the budget, Obama made the case that lawmakers must protect entitlements for future generations, but he also said that the programs -- including Medicare -- would not survive without changes. However, he said that Republicans must agree to more revenue increases before he would concede on entitlement changes (Gibson, Politico, 3/12).
While Obama did not suggest specific ways in which entitlement programs could be changed, some Democrats left the meeting concerned that Obama is willing to cut benefits. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said the "president was pretty clear that we need to have these programs sustainable and that it's reasonable to look at" changing them (Hughes, Wall Street Journal, 3/12).
The meeting marked the beginning of a three-day Congressional outreach campaign by Obama (Landler/Steinhauer, New York Times, 3/12). He plans to meet with House Republicans on Wednesday, followed by a meetings with House Democrats and Senate Republicans on Thursday (Politico, 3/12).
Continuing Resolution Delayed
In related news, Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday delayed Senate debate on the House-approved continuing resolution extension bill (HR 933) to fund the federal government through Sept. 30, CQ Roll Call reports (Chacko, CQ Roll Call, 3/12).
The bill does not provide additional funding for implementation of the Affordable Care Act. It also maintains the $85 billion in spending cuts under sequestration that took effect on March 1 and include a 2% reduction to Medicare reimbursement rates (California Healthline, 3/12).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed a motion to limit debate on the measure and proceed to a vote on Thursday. However, Coburn and McCain said they need more time to review the 587-page bill, which was delivered to them on Monday.
McCain previously had asked Senate leaders to provide at least 72 hours to read the bill. Democratic leaders countered that the bill had been available for review since it was passed by the House last week (CQ Roll Call, 3/12).
Harkin Amendment Would Boost Health Funding
Meanwhile, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) plans to release an amendment to HR 933 that would boost funding for several health care and education programs, CQ Roll Call reports.
The amendment would provide $211 million for NIH, compared with $71 million currently included in the CR. It also would increase funding to the Ryan White AIDS Drug Assistance Program by $29 million.
The measure does not include any additional ACA implementation funding (Smith, CQ Roll Call, 3/12).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.