Obama budget changes Social Security: Are Republicans on board?
President Obama proposed changes to entitlements including Social Security in his new budget, prompting hopes of a 'grand bargain.' Republicans mixed qualified approval with skepticism.
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Even House Speaker John Boehner offered a small nod to the White House, offering that Obama deserves “some credit” for proposing entitlement changes – even if those alterations come up short of what the president offered the Ohio Republican during closed-door negotiations in the past.Skip to next paragraph
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Senate Republicans left a dinner last month with the president with a sense that Obama would give more ground on entitlement reform than he had previously let on. A second dinner with some 10 Republican senators Wednesday evening is expected to feature a lengthy discussion of entitlements.
“There’s a lot of talk between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate right now about, 'Could we find that sweet spot and do something significant?' ” says Sen. Tim Kaine (D) of Virginia.
But Obama's recommendations suggest that any deal this summer is likely to be a smaller, “down payment” approach.
The president, for example, is calling for $500 billion in additional tax revenue over the next decade. While that's lower than the nearly $1 trillion in tax increases staked out in the Senate’s Democratic budget, Republicans don't want any.
Meanwhile, much of Obama's $1.5 trillion in spending cuts would simply replace the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts from the “sequester,” meaning they are not new spending cuts, according to the GOP's reckoning. By contrast, the aggressive House Republican budget would make broad cuts to equalize government spending and revenue within 10 years.
In negotiating with a president who sharply disagrees with Republicans, then, the idea should be to find the biggest deal possible – and that won’t be one that fixes everything that budget-watchers hope can be fixed, said Representative Ryan.
“I don’t think we should talk about a grand bargain,” he said. “A grand bargain implies you can fix the entire problem ... but we’re so far from that with what the president has and the Senate has passed ... that I think we should rationalize our expectations to getting a down payment on the problem.”
How might that be done? Leaders in both chambers want it handled through “regular order” – meaning attempting to reconcile the stark differences between the House and Senate budgets through negotiations. While that approach would be preferable, Ryan said, lawmakers should be open to any opportunity to get to "yes."
“Ultimately, I think that’s the path we ought to follow,” he said. But “I don’t want to foreclose any opportunities in the future by commenting on what the process should or should not be or the method we use to get something done.”