Who is blocking a grand debt deal? Democrats, too, have their limits.
With the White House preparing for negotiations Sunday over a deal on raising the debt ceiling, House Democrats say they will not support cuts in Social Security or Medicare benefits.
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From the start of the debt talks, Boehner has said that tax increases are off the table, because it hurts jobs to raise taxes when the economy is struggling to recover from a recession. At a press briefing on Friday, he said that his aim from the start of the process was “the big deal that would fundamentally solve our spending problem and our debt problem in the near to medium term.”Skip to next paragraph
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“But at the end of the day, we’ve got to have a bill that we can pass through the House and the Senate,” he added. “In all honesty, I don’t think this problem has narrowed at all in the last several days.”
Back in the days when she was House speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D) of California was the president’s essential partner on Capitol Hill, but as the House minority leader recently has been less a presence in closed White House negotiating sessions, displaced by Boehner.
Now, she’s a player again, if only because Democratic votes may be needed when it comes time to pass a debt deal in the House.
Democrats want to reduce the budget deficit and grow the economy, but not “on the backs of America’s seniors and working families,” Pelosi said Friday. That means “no benefit cuts in Medicare and Social Security,” she said. “And we have serious concerns about what is happening with Medicaid as well.”
“I'm still optimistic that we can find a place where we can come together, I don't like to have a situation where we're saying, well, you need our votes, so you better have this in the bill,” she added.
House Republicans have taken a pounding in public opinion polls over their budget plan for FY 2012, which reduced the federal role in Medicare. They lost a special election in New York they had been expected to win that turned on GOP Medicare cuts.
Democrats are gearing up to use the issue in the 2012 campaign – a strategy that would be undermined if Democrats wind up voting for a debt deal that includes Medicare cuts.
“A lot of Democrats thought they were going to run [in 2012] as guardians of Medicare and Social Security, but for the White House to tell them that both are going to be chopped puts their reelection plans in jeopardy,” says Thomas Ferguson, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.