Budget talks: Republicans offer to seek common ground with Democrats
By Lori Montgomery, Wednesday, May 4, 9:20 PM
Senior Republicans conceded Wednesday that a deal is unlikely on a contentious plan to overhaul Medicare and offered to open budget talks with the White House by focusing on areas where both parties can agree, such as cutting farm subsidies.
On the eve of debt-reduction talks led by Vice President Biden, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said Republicans remain convinced that reining in federal retirement programs is the key to stabilizing the nation’s finances over the long term. But he said Republicans recognize they may need to look elsewhere to achieve consensus after President Obama “excoriated us” for a proposal to privatize Medicare.
That search should start, Cantor said, with a list of GOP proposals that would save $715 billion over the next decade by ending payments to wealthy farmers, limiting lawsuits against doctors, and expanding government auctions of broadcast spectrum to telecommunications companies, among other items.
Democrats said they were encouraged by the move, which could smooth the way to a compromise allowing Congress to raise the legal limit on government borrowing and avoid a national default.
“There’s common ground there,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, who is representing House Democrats in the Biden talks.
The conciliatory tone signals the opening of a new and more consequential phase in the battle to design an affordable government for an aging society. After months of partisan brinkmanship over comparatively small cuts to the current budget, lawmakers returned to Washington this week to confront the harder problem of reducing a national debt that has risen to alarming levels.
They face a tight deadline: Without congressional action, the debt will hit the legal limit of $14.3 trillion in the next two weeks. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has said he can juggle the books and pay the bills through Aug. 2. But at that point, the U.S. government would risk a default on its obligations and economic disaster.
Congressional leaders in both parties are eager to avoid that outcome and are dispatching representatives to the Biden talks to try to hash out a debt-reduction accord that would make it easier for lawmakers to cast a politically difficult vote for additional borrowing.
Even the more austere spending plan drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and approved last month by the House would require an increase in the debt ceiling of about $1.9 trillion to cover the government’s bills through September 2012.
With voters growing increasingly anxious about the debt, Republicans and some Democrats are refusing to approve additional borrowing without an explicit strategy to reduce deficit spending. Raising the debt limit will be particularly difficult in the House, where the Republican majority is dominated by conservatives who have vowed to oppose any additional borrowing.
In the Biden talks, Cantor said House Republicans will be looking for an agreement that includes three elements: spending cuts in the fiscal 2012 budget, which covers the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1; enforceable targets that would require Congress to continue racheting down spending in future years; and action by the end of this year on legislation that would begin to meet those targets.
This could get interesting. A no fault insurance plan for Medicine like we have in auto insurance clearly will save some money by reducing insurance premiums for the health industry. The question is will the Democrats be willing to throw the lawyers under the bus who are huge contributors to the Dems to maintain the status quo?
Based on the giveaway to their Union constituents in the Health care overhaul I doubt it? Nice to see some real compromise go on the table. This is a great opportunity for Obama to show some leadership with Democrats in the Senate.
Can the Tan Man be any worse at his job? Speaker Boehner forces a vote on Paul Ryan's plan, a plan that turns medicare into voucher system, they reportedly now conceded that part of the plan, but doesn't change the fact they all still voted for the plan with that part in it. He just screwed his vulnerable members who voted for medicare voucher system. I hope they enjoy the 2012 ad campaigns.