Entries in Budget Deficit (5)


Deficit Super-Committee Held Closed-Door Breakfast Club Meeting

From left, Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., emerge from the private breakfast meeting of the Joint Deficit Reduction Committee in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. Bill Clark/Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- For its third meeting, the 12-member, deficit-reduction committee gathered in the U.S. Capitol Thursday for an early, closed-door breakfast over orange juice, coffee, pastries and bacon to talk about how it can achieve a plan for deficit reduction by Thanksgiving.

After emerging from the meeting, the co-chairs of the debt committee were scant on details about what nitty-gritty was discussed. Rather, they seemed to use the morning’s breakfast as more of a getting-to-know-you meeting, even as all the members have called for quick work with a November deadline and the threat of the trigger options looming.

“It’s the first opportunity many of us have had to meet in an unofficial setting,” committee co-chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said. “And every member today is ready to roll up their sleeves and get about the tough business of deficit reduction. We know it will not be fun, we know it will not be easy, it will not be popular.”

This is the third formal meeting of the committee tasked with identifying $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by Nov. 23, as born out of negotiations on the debt-ceiling deal. The first meeting last week was largely administrative in nature. The second committee meeting, on Tuesday of this week, featured a testimony from Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf about the past drivers of the nation’s deficits and debt.

Thursday’s meeting was largely about the interpersonal relationships among the members. The co-chairs had never even met before they were tasked in August to head the committee. In statements made by both co-chairs Thursday, they noted that they “stand at the ready to get to work.” The real work has yet to start. So, naturally, about 70 days before their deadline, the co-chairs were asked then when they will actually get to work.

“We will be putting out our schedule, hopefully, today,” Murray replied as she walked away.
Much hay has been made about the committee’s transparency. Two of the three meetings have been open to cameras thus far. Thursday’s was the first behind closed doors, generating statements from other members of Congress.

The co-chairs have said they will open hearings to cameras but in order to do the tough negotiating that needs to be done, some meetings have to be private.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama and Boehner Debt Talks: The Grand Bargain

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- President Obama and Speaker John Boehner have been discussing a grand bargain to cut some $4 trillion in projected budget deficits over the next 10 to 12 years, according to officials familiar with the talks.

There is no deal yet, but the ideas under consideration include reductions in spending on the big three entitlement programs:  Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  That would be a huge concession for Democrats.  In return, Republicans would agree to close some big tax loopholes, reducing some deductions and other so-called spending in the tax code as part of a tax reform deal that would also lower corporate tax rates.  The net effect of that tax reform plan would be an increase in tax revenue.

As one senior administration official told me, "We need to do something unthinkable on entitlements.  They need to do something unthinkable on taxes."

Another White House official acknowledged that Democrats won’t like the proposed reductions in Social Security and Medicare (an understatement), but that the changes would be modest compared to what Republicans have proposed in the Paul Ryan budget plan.

Among the spending reductions the president and the speaker have discussed is reducing the annual cost of living increase (COLA) for Social Security and Medicare as well as increasing the level of income subject to the Social Security FICA tax (the tax currently applies to an individual’s first $106,800 of income).

As for the tax changes, a top Republican official says that while they are discussing closing tax loopholes and other changes to increase tax revenues, there is still a red line for Republicans when it comes to tax rates: "The Speaker has never offered to let any of the Bush tax cuts expire.”

The big question:  Even if Obama and Boehner can strike a deal, will it fly with other Congressional leaders?

Senior Congressional Republicans said this morning that they are doubtful that anything that looks like a tax increase can pass the House -- or even gain the support of others in the Republican leadership.  And Democrats from Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi on down have said they would oppose anything that cuts Medicare or Social Security benefits.  

In other words: a deal that both raises tax revenues and cuts entitlements may be exactly what needs to be done to deal with the deficit, and it may also be impossible to pass in Congress.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


GOP Lawmakers Face Angry, Confused Constituents on Cuts

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The backlash that some Republican members of Congress are facing in town hall meetings over their 2012 budget proposal rings a familiar bell.

In August 2009, Democrats across the country faced rowdy, YouTube-worthy protesters as they tried to sell the health care plan.

As Republican members take to the road during their two-week break from Congress to try and sell the budget proposal crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, they are facing similar questions, though the outcry thus far has not yet escalated to the level that their Democratic counterparts faced.

Americans are particularly concerned, and somewhat confused, about the proposal to overhaul Medicare, a central feature of the Wisconsin Congressman's proposal.

Under the plan, starting in 2022, senior citizens would be able to shop for coverage on insurance exchanges set up by their state, but instead of the federal government paying for every service as it currently does, each Medicare beneficiary would be allotted a certain amount of money based on their income.

The age of Medicare eligibility would increase by two months every year until it reaches 67 in 2033.

"What you're doing with this Ryan budget is you're taking Medicare and you're changing it from a guaranteed health care system to one that's a voucher system where you throw seniors ... on the mercy of for-profit insurance companies," railed one attendee at a town hall held by Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Penn.

In New Hampshire, Rep. Charlie Bass heard similar complaints.

"This is just salt in the wound," a constituent told the freshman Republican.

Ryan, who has emerged as the GOP's leader on budget issues, himself hasn't been immune.  At one town hall meeting last Tuesday, the House Budget committee chairman was booed after getting into a brief confrontation with one attendee about income equality and the middle class.

Other town halls, where constituents praised him for his efforts -- even calling on him to run for president -- made up for it.  But the message remains the same: Americans have yet to fully digest what the plan would mean for them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Lawmakers Stuck on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security Fixes

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With all the finger-pointing in Washington this week over the need to reform Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, one thing is clear: it might just be Americans' very sense of entitlement to those programs that's the biggest barrier to getting something done.

The three programs have ballooned to 57 percent of the government budget this year and are widely cited as the most significant contributors to the federal deficit, something nearly all Americans want to see aggressively brought under control.

But while lawmakers from both parties agree on curbing the skyrocketing costs of the programs, few have endorsed a specific way to get that done.

President Obama, who's come under fire for not offering a detailed vision for fixing entitlement spending in his 2012 budget, said Tuesday that he's prepared to work with both parties to "start dealing with that in a serious way."

Republicans, meanwhile, who also haven't united around their own path to reform but promised their forthcoming budget would include a step forward, said they are "waiting for presidential leadership."

Washington's pundits say both sides could come together this year and work something out.  But the "adult conversation" Republicans and Democrats say they're ready to have on entitlements only gets more politically perilous as it gets more specific -- particularly ahead of a looming election battle in 2012.

Fifty-six percent of Americans oppose changes to Medicare benefits and 64 percent oppose changes to Social Security benefits, according to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University School of Public Health.

At the same time, a majority of Americans oppose tax increases to pay to keep the programs operating at their current levels.

Moreover, heading into a presidential election season, no party or politician wants to be perceived as altering a benefit program that affects some of the most reliable and active American voters -- senior citizens.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boehner Dismisses Report Health Care Repeal Increases Deficit

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker of the House John Boehner dismissed a report by the Congressional Budget Office that found that repealing the health care law would increase the federal deficit.

Boehner warned Thursday that the “best health care system in the world is going to go down the drain” if Congress fails to repeal the law.

Earlier Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office released a preliminary analysis that the repeal of the Health Care Reform law, including reduced spending on Medicare, would cost $145 billion through the end of the decade and $230 billion by 2021.

Shortly after the CBO released its report, Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Republicans responded by releasing their own report that examined the economic and fiscal consequences of the health care law on the economy and federal budget.

“I do not believe that repealing the job-killing health care law will increase the deficit,” said Boehner, R-Ohio, saying it is Congress’s responsibility to come through on campaign promises.

“We made a commitment to the American people. We're listening to the American people,” Boehner said. “They want this bill repealed. And we are going to repeal it, and we're going to do everything we can over the course of however long it takes to stop this, because it will ruin the best health care system in the world, it will bankrupt our nation and it will ruin our economy.”

The report comes as Boehner responds to requests from the Obama administration and the Treasury Department to raise the limit on the national deficit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio