Political Aides Denying Reports of Imminent Deal on Federal Budget
Thursday's media reports suggesting that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) were closing in on a fiscal year 2012 budget and debt-limit agreement angered senior congressional Democrats, forcing Obama to convene a meeting with top Democrats and prompting denials from the two leaders' aides, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, senior Democrats were angry with some of the concessions that Obama apparently struck with Boehner without their input. Although details of the purported deal were sparse, aides familiar with the package said it calls for cutting the federal deficit by as much as $3 trillion through a combination of substantial spending reductions and a revenue-generating tax code overhaul (Hulse/Calmes, New York Times, 7/21).
Silence, Denials After News of Imminent Deal
Immediately after news broke of a possible deal between Obama and Boehner, White House Budget Director Jack Lew told Senate Democrats that there was no deal (Wasson/Youngman, "On the Money," The Hill, 7/21).
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jay Carney in his daily press briefing also called the media reports of an imminent deal false, adding the situation is "fluid." He noted that Obama is adamant about "exploring the possibility of getting the biggest deal possible" (Kaplan/Garrett, National Journal, 7/21).
Close aides to three of the top Democratic leaders -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- declined to comment on the media reports and the meeting at the White House. All three lawmakers met with Obama late Thursday (Shiner, Roll Call, 7/21). A spokesperson for Boehner also told Capitol Hill reporters that "there is no 'deal' and no progress to report" (Berman, The Hill, 7/21).
House GOP Working on Short-Term Budget Package
House Republicans, under the leadership of Boehner, began discussing a short-term FY 2012 budget and debt-limit package on the same day that the White House announced that Obama was softening his stance toward such a package (Budoff Brown/Sherman, Politico, 7/20).
On Wednesday, White House officials indicated that the president is willing to consider a temporary package -- a prospect he publicly rejected last week -- to avoid a federal default on debt obligations on Aug. 2 (California Healthline, 7/21).
Senate Democrats To Discuss Prospects of 'Gang of Six' Plan
The bipartisan "Gang of Six" senators on Friday are scheduled to meet with Reid, Durbin and other Senate Democratic leaders to discuss the possibility of moving the group's new budget and debt-limit proposal through Congress, Roll Call reports.
The meeting had been scheduled on Thursday, but it was postponed after the leaders were summoned to the White House for the unscheduled meeting with Obama (Sanchez, Roll Call, 7/21).
Senate Votes 51-46 To Table House GOP's 'Cut, Cap and Balance' Bill
The Senate on Friday voted 51-46, along party lines, to table the House-approved, GOP-sponsored budget and debt-limit bill (HR 2560), known as the "cut, cap and balance" measure, Politico reports (Wong, Politico, 7/22).
The bill would have reduced spending by $111 billion in 2012, capped spending over the next 10 years and barred the U.S. from borrowing more money until lawmakers passed a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution (Ryan, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 7/21).
Reid said he did not want to wait until the weekend to hold the vote on the bill, which he said is "about as weak and senseless as anything that has ever come on this Senate floor" (Drucker, Roll Call, 7/21).
Debt Reduction Requires Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Obama Says
In a USA Today opinion piece published on Thursday, Obama writes, "I'm willing to take on the rising costs of health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid" as part of efforts to reduce the national debt. He notes, "Some of the cuts would target worthwhile programs that do a lot of good for our country," adding, "They're cuts that some people in my own party aren't too happy about, and frankly, I wouldn't make them if we didn't have so much debt."
However, he writes, "[T]he truth is, you can't get rid of the deficit by simply eliminating waste and fraud, or getting rid of pet projects and foreign aid, like some have suggested" (Obama, USA Today, 7/21).
Lawmakers Consider Medicare Reimbursement
On Tuesday, forty-five senators sent a letter to CMS Administrator Donald Berwick asking him to account for potential changes in patient severity in the proposed Medicare inpatient prospective payment system, as well as to "consider an appropriate adjustment to the proposed cuts" made in budget negotiations, Modern Healthcare reports.
Likewise, 218 House members on Wednesday sent their own letter to Berwick asking that the final rule account for patient severity (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 7/22).
Senate Democrats Want Cuts to Medicare Drug Spending
Senate Democrats at a Special Aging Committee hearing on Thursday pushed for cuts to Medicare drug spending as a part of any deficit-reduction package, Modern Healthcare reports.
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chair of the committee, said, "In 2010, Americans spent more than $300 billion on prescription drugs and a third of that was paid for by Medicare or Medicaid." He noted, "Left unchecked, these costs threaten our country, our economy and every American family" (Daly, Modern Healthcare, 7/21).
Experts Unsure of Medicare, Medicaid Changes In the Event of a Default
Experts are unsure how Medicare and Medicaid would be affected if lawmakers are not able to pass a budget deal that raises the debt-ceiling before Aug. 2, when the government defaults on its loans and loses 40% of necessary funding to pay bills, Politico reports.
Many assume the administration would prioritize which federal payments to make based on the estimated severity of political and economic disruptions. Some believe this strategy would not include making Medicare payments, as the government could pay for treatments after a budget deal is reached.
However, others say the administration would not have a choice about which payments to make because it is required by law to treat all congressional spending equally (Feder, Politico, 7/21).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.