House Democrats Blast Debt Plan That Targets Entitlement Spending

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On Wednesday, House Democrats criticized a deficit-reduction plan reportedly offered by Democrats on the debt panel, The Hill reports (Lillis, The Hill, 10/26).

Background

As part of the recent budget agreement, the 12-member panel -- also known as the "super committee" -- must develop and pass by the end of November $1.5 trillion in federal spending cuts over 10 years. Failure to do so would trigger a series of automatic across-the-board cuts.

According to congressional aides, Democrats on the panel offered a proposal that would reduce the deficit by almost $3 trillion over 10 years through a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases, including $500 billion in cuts to federal health programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid (California Healthline, 10/26). Reuters reported that the Medicare reductions would be split evenly between benefits and provider reimbursements.

Criticism of Plan

Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) rebuked the idea of cutting Medicare benefits. Schakowsky said," The very idea of reducing benefits ... is unacceptable," adding, "I'm not against making Medicare more efficient (but) I am absolutely, unequivocally opposed to cutting benefits."

Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said he does not believe Democrats on the panel offered the plan, noting that sources could not provide any details about the proposal (Lillis, The Hill, 10/26).

Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), a member of the debt panel, downplayed the proposal as "suggestions" made to Republicans during negotiations. He said, "There was no kerfuffle!" (Wasson, The Hill, 10/26).

According to the Washington Post, Republicans questioned the timing of the Democrats' proposal, coming almost two months after negotiations began. The GOP suggested Democrats want to appear willing to negotiate despite offering proposals that they know Republicans would never accept. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), a member of the panel, said, "You have to wonder if this is about positioning instead of about moving to resolution" (Montgomery, Washington Post, 10/26).

GOP Plan Forthcoming

On Wednesday, Republicans on the debt panel were close to finalizing their own deficit-reduction proposal, National Journal reports. The plan would reduce the deficit by almost $1.5 trillion over 10 years without raising taxes. GOP officials said the plan will be "revenue neutral" (Friedman et al., National Journal, 10/27).

Impending Deadline

At a public hearing held by the panel on Wednesday, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf said his agency must receive a deficit-reduction plan from the committee by early November in order to score it by Thanksgiving, The Hill reports.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), co-chair of the debt committee, acknowledged that the panel is running out of time. She said, "We aren't there yet, but I'm confident we are making progress," adding, "And I'm hopeful we are moving quickly enough to meet our rapidly approaching deadline" (Wasson, The Hill, 10/26).


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