House Democrats: No dice on Medicare, Social Security cuts
July 8th, 2011
09:23 PM ET
6 years ago

House Democrats: No dice on Medicare, Social Security cuts

Washington (CNN) - Congressional Democrats, frustrated that President Obama is including entitlement changes in debt negotiations, pushed back Friday, insisting they will not support any benefit cuts to Medicare or Social Security.

They also reminded the White House it should heed their concerns if it wants to get Democratic votes necessary to pass any agreement.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who had a one-on-one meeting with the president Friday morning, told her caucus she reminded Obama that Democrats oppose any reductions in benefits for these government programs that serve as safety nets for the elderly, poor and disabled.

"We are not going to reduce the size of the deficit or subsidize tax cuts for rich, on the backs of America's seniors," Pelosi said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

Instead of flocking to the exits, as is usual on Friday afternoons, many House Democrats remained in the Capitol to attend a closed-door meeting ahead of Sunday's session for bipartisan leaders at the White House. According to several Democratic sources, member after member vented frustration to Pelosi about potentially facing a vote on a $4 trillion package that could include changes to entitlement programs.

After the meeting, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, was unequivocal - saying he won't vote for any changes to these programs. "We're not going to bend on Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security."

Seventy House Democrats sent a letter to Obama, asking him to keep Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security off the bargaining table.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, said he was caught off guard when he learned the White House was proposing major entitlement reforms as part of a debt limit deal. "All of the sudden, I read this in the paper two days ago that this in on the table and someone is going to come up with a reform in a weekend?" he said.

"I'm a Democrat. I came to Congress to protect Social Security and Medicare, not to see it dismantled," McGovern added.

Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly described his colleagues as "understandably very skittish about putting Medicare back on the table and Social Security while they're at it, which has very little to do with the debt."

Some Democrats focused their concerns on reports that the White House was considering changing the way Social Security benefits are calculated.

"The notion that the way you're going to balance the budget is to make it more difficult for senior citizens to get cost of living adjustment increases, what you're saying is we're going to lower the standard of living for seniors in this country," McGovern said.

But Pelosi stressed that any potential changes to Social Security are "hypothetical," telling reporters, "The dirty rotten devil is in the dirty rotten details."

While Democrats continued to draw a line at changing benefits, they did leave room for other changes to Medicare, such as savings from overpayments and waste in the program, revising rules for the way the program buys prescription drugs, and changes for those people who receive benefits under both Medicare and Medicaid.

But Pelosi insisted that any savings accrued had to be reinvested back into Medicare and Social Security, not directed to tax cuts or deficit reduction.

Connolly acknowledged that signing onto a bipartisan agreement that included Medicare changes could also cost Democrats politically. That's because Democrats have been railing against changes to the program proposed by Republicans - and believe that voter concerns about Medicare could help them win in the next election.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, seemed less concerned about losing the advantage on the issue, saying Democrats would never agree to anything as far reaching as the Republican plan. "Whatever agreement is reached, it's not going to include anything like the House Republican plan that guts Medicare and passes on these huge costs," he said.

Several Democrats predicted that Obama would need at least 100 House Democrats to vote for the deal to get it through the House, a task Connolly called "a tall order."

Rep. Rob Andrews, D-New Jersey, said getting that many Democrats to vote 'yes' would be "very hard." He said the president "needs to explain the stakes of not acting."

While Democrats made it clear their votes should not be taken for granted, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio also faces a steep climb convincing House Republicans to vote for any revenue increases.

The head of the House GOP's campaign committee, Pete Sessions of Texas, underlined the challenge, saying the vote on the debt ceiling "will be the biggest issue that will face members of Congress in their re-election."

One House GOP leadership aide said both House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Kyl, expressed reservations at Thursday's White House meeting about the prospects for getting a $4 trillion package through Congress if it includes a trillion in tax revenues.

Such a high figure, the aide noted, would mean Republicans would have to agree to proposals that go much farther than simply closing loopholes and would go against a GOP pledge not to raise taxes.

Filed under: Debt • House Democrats • Medicare • Social Security
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Albo58

    After her completely failed reign as Speaker, only the Dimwits would allow Queen Nan within 1,000 miles of a national debt negotiation! Furthermore, do note that Queen Nan and her party did NOT contribute one nickel towards our national debt and in fact spent more money in the last 2 years than ANY Congress in our history!

    July 8, 2011 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  2. Annie, Atlanta

    Do they have the spines to stand strong on this? What I really want to know is this: Are the Republicans trying to undermine our economic recovery for political gain? Because everything they want to do to us will sink us. And if it is determine, as Michele Bachmann may have inferred by hoping the bad jobs outlook will help her chances, when are we going to start calling this terrorism, or at the very least, treason?

    July 8, 2011 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  3. John

    I agree don't mess with SS ,medicare and medicaid, The Old ,the Poor and the Disable need these thing. All the Republican are worry about Is the Millionaire and Billionaire and the TEA PARTY. they could care less about the working class of the American People. They would rather take food out of some people ,than to tax the Rich a Little. This Is the Republican party has turn Into. I'm all most sorry i was ever a Republican. The Republican and the TEA PARTY have turn the Republican party Into a bunch of Hypocrite. I'M now A Independent voter.

    July 8, 2011 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  4. DinaK

    The obamacare bill already takes money out of Medicare!!! Where is all the unbiased accurate media reporting on that?

    July 8, 2011 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  5. Jane

    Yep Dems just want to appease the voting cash cow.

    July 8, 2011 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  6. kyle

    Medicare and Social Security should never be cut so the rich can keep lining their pockets, as we know tax cuts have not created jobs.

    July 8, 2011 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  7. GOP = Greed Over People

    President Obama will cave just like he did in December with the Bush tax cuts which added 1 TRILLION to the deficit and not ONE GOP complaint, but now, they want to pay for it by making the poor, old and young suffer.

    President Obama has thrown the middle class under the bus once, and he will do it this time as well.

    He will do it with pretty words, but the end result will be the same.

    July 8, 2011 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  8. Lost in Texas FOREVER

    Thank goodness SOMEBODY is trying to look out for the middle class in our country because the Republicans sure aren't. And if President Obama is going to cave in tho the GOP and put Medicare and SS on the cutting table my strong support for him is going to weaken as well. If the GOP can get a united front and not back down on their stance of not raising revenue on the upper 2%, a move that a MAJORITY of Americans polled have favored, then Obama and the Dems should not blink on their stance as well.

    July 8, 2011 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  9. Ebony

    Good for the DEMS!
    Don't back down.

    July 8, 2011 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  10. pmk1953

    Again with the pledge to norquist. Arrest them for treason. The pledge to norquist is agaist the oath of office. By following this pledge, they violate their oath of office and commit treason. Arrest norquist for sedition.

    July 8, 2011 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  11. Nick

    You can't ignore the entitlement programs if you're talking spending cuts. Cutting NASA's budget is a drop in the ocean for this deficit and you 70 idiot Democrats think you can keep the big ticket items off the table?

    Get real.

    July 8, 2011 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  12. GonzoinHouston

    Hmmm, the left won't budge on the Big 3 entitlements. The right won't budge on taxes. To get our deficit under control we're going to have to reductions in the Big 3, plus reductions in defense, plus cuts in subsidies, cuts in tax breaks and still need an outright income tax increase. Neither side can force through the parts they want, and neither side can stomach the parts they don't. But if somebody doesn't budge we will be looking at a debt default, which will be worse than all the above put together. Maybe we go back to the original plan A – just raise the limit like we did the other 67 times? Then put two plans out for 2012 – one based on tax-the-rich and one on cut-SS-Medicare-Medicaid, and see who wins the most elections?

    July 8, 2011 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  13. Moe NY

    Social Security is not an entitlement program, never has been, never will be...all Americans have paid into this retirement fund, and all Americans deserve to draw their benefits upon retirement. If the government had kept their hands off of this stand alone program there would not be a problem today. I suggest that the government PAY BACK THE MONEY they borrowed...the IOU is passed due.

    July 8, 2011 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  14. Four and The Door

    "I'm a Democrat. I came to Congress to protect Social Security and Medicare, not to see it dismantled," McGovern added.
    No, it is apparently more important that the entire country be dismantled to support these outdated programs?!? If you are such a huge supporter of Medicare, what have you done lately to address the $80 billion a year Medicare fraud industry?

    July 9, 2011 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  15. Sgt Schultz

    Thank you....yeah the Dem's know they would be out of job next election if they caved. Whatever happened to cutting Defense, Security and War on Drugs spending? The Republicans doubled the defense budget the last 10 years and just did it again in the House...we don't need to be occupying Muslim lands. Let them fight it out on their own. We also need to end the pathetic War on Drugs which is bankrupting us and never will's not working and keeps getting more expensive.

    July 9, 2011 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  16. MiDon

    Many people barely survive on the pitance they get from social secrity,. Now the mean-spirited, cold hearted, callous, and heartless Repubs want to slash that! Pandering to rich and the risher and the richest on a pledge not to raise their taxes, the would gladly throw the elderly and poor under the bus feeling no sense of shame. It kind of make their pro-life stance a laughing stock: save baby Smith but let Grandma Smith die of depreravation... ..figure.

    July 9, 2011 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  17. DanJ

    This is why I hate partisan bickering, neither side wants to compromise, but call the other side stubborn for not giving in. Good luck getting anything done. But this is fully Obama's blame: The man that could reach across the aisle and promote centrism has failed.

    July 9, 2011 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  18. The Elephant in The Room

    I support the president want to see him succeed.

    However I must too admit I lack confidence in his negotiation skills / approach.

    A typical 50 year old Director [or higher] level executive with an Ivy League [Columbia/Harvard] MBA would have 25 years of increasing managerial responsibility. That person would have dealt with all types of people and would have honed their skills in a way that the President simply has not done.

    He seems to miss the basic concept that simpleminded opponents like the Republicans start with an outlandish position expecting to concede something. Instead he is naieve – as he himself said.

    He needs to use the "bully pulpit" and the "nuclear option" that the 14th Ammendment provides him to squeeze the Republicans without squeezing his base.

    Going into the election, he needs to cut spending, raise taxes on the rich and not punk out to the GOP.

    July 9, 2011 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  19. Squigman

    I hope these people hold their ground. In the past decade corporate welfare has surpassed social welfare by a wide margin. Wall Street, would not exist today, if not for the assistance receive, and I'm in doubt that the reture on the peoples investment has been on a parity with the amount doled out. On the other hand, a society thats healthy and employed returns a dividend that's staggering in proportion to the investment made.

    July 9, 2011 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  20. Struggling Democrat

    So says the lady wearing Armani and with a $25million Napa vineyard, Nancy Pelosi?

    July 9, 2011 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  21. Beefburger

    Every Greek citizen owes $45,000 towards Greece's debt and they have to suffer austerity measures to avoid a meltdown in the world economy. Every citizen of the US owes $46,000 and politicians just want to play pattycake.

    July 9, 2011 03:31 am at 3:31 am |
  22. Peter T

    Finally, someone stands up against that couple Obama/Boehner who want to shift our social security money to the richest. Go Nancy! Obama is not longer a democrat, maybe never was, now you and Harry have to lead alone.

    July 9, 2011 05:03 am at 5:03 am |
  23. Debra From Georgia

    "We are not going to reduce the size of the deficit or subsidize tax cuts for rich, on the backs of America's seniors," Pelosi said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

    Say it Nancy

    July 9, 2011 05:42 am at 5:42 am |
  24. Sank

    You know Pelosi I though you and most Democrats were just fools and did Obama's bidding. But you may have a few brains that the alcohol hasn't eaten up yet.

    July 9, 2011 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  25. pray

    Come on people, when are you going to understand that if Social Security and Medicare are off the table then you have effectively taken away 80% of the cards. No way to cut deficit and debt without addressing them. Period. Do the math!

    July 9, 2011 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
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