House Democrats: No dice on Medicare, Social Security cuts
July 8th, 2011
09:23 PM ET
10 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. DOS

    It..."will be the biggest issue that will face members of Congress in their re-election." So this is the underlying issue driving the agenda– getting re-elected!!! This sickens me as an independent.

    July 9, 2011 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  2. KatR

    If SS benefits were completely eradicated the govt would save a whopping $600 million a year. That's according to the SSA figures...the agency charged with calculating and cutting those checks. Cutting SS benefits would have about as much impact on cutting the deficit as eliminating the tax deduction for corporate jet owners. The difference would be that while jet owners might have to pay a little more in taxes, those taxes would not cover the govt money needed to dispose of the dead citizens who no longer had an income to stay alive.

    July 9, 2011 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  3. Marry

    "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.
    I do appreciate the Presidents efforts to work with the GOP. He has been trying it time and time again. However, it has only brought him rejection and the GOP taking not only his hand but would like to pull of his arm. High time to stop the GOP and take a stand against their never ending demands to take from the weakest and push it towards the strongest in society! Whatever they say – the GOP/TP does not in the least speak for me!

    July 9, 2011 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  4. Clwyd

    Democrats! Do not cave to the republicans and their attacks on Americas in need over the demands of the corporate world and the rich! The republican'ts have become a pack of animals! Pigs!

    July 9, 2011 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  5. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared war on you!

    Go Dems! Nice to see ya'll getting some spine. The Greedy Old Pigs have way overplayed their hand on this one, and will have their butts handed to them for being such obstructionist liars. They care nothing for average Americans.

    And riddle me this, all you GOBPbaggin' teatards: What sacrifices are you asking the wealthy to make?

    July 9, 2011 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  6. The Obama Recession Continues Unabated, Obama Depression on the way

    telling reporters, "The dirty rotten devil is in the dirty rotten details."
    Yes, and your are an expert about "dirty rotten details" given all the dirty rotten details you buried in Obamacare and then arrogantly told us "we'll have to pass the bill so you can see what is in it". This women is despicable. BTW, she is looking rather old and haggered lately. I guess not having that personal government jet to fly her coast to coast every week is taking its toll on the old battle axe.

    July 9, 2011 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  7. The Obama Recession Continues Unabated, Obama Depression on the way

    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.
    Well, if this doesn't tell it all, what does? Democrats have spent this country into the financial abyss and want to continue to do so until we collapse the whole system and have rioting in the streets like Greece. I guess their alternative is tax rates skyrocketing and the implementation of a European style socialist state, which are all collapsing!

    The FACT is that the Democrats entire party is based on the redistribution of wealth and the establishment of a welfare state with tens or hundreds of millions of government dependents. They will do NOTHING that threatens that. They will even bankrupt this country and destroy it trying to make it happen. Their vision for the future of the USA lies 90 miles off the Florida coast in Cuba.

    July 9, 2011 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  8. marty

    Nancy Pelosi, crucified by the Republicans during her tenure as Speaker of the House, has been one of the best spokespersons for the average, middle class Americans. Along with many colleagues in both Houses such as Sanders and Van Hollen, she has been forthright in voicing her support for two of the best social programs in existence, Social Security and Medicare. It's unfortunate that her opponents on the 'right' argue for different social programs, namely the tax cuts for the wealthy and entitlements in the form of subsidies for oil companies, et al. If there ever was a time to demonstrate a true, American spirit, a true belief in the freedom, well being and equality for all citizens, it is right now. A reverse Robin Hood mentality just doesn't cut it.

    July 9, 2011 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  9. diane

    The Democratic People of the U.S,need to come out in force to over come this "Right Wing Extremist Movement" that is taking Americas freedom away!!!! Bachmanns statement yesterday,That Black American Children were better of during "SALAVERY" than they are now???????? What an INSULT TO OUR BLACK AMERICANS!!!!!! RACISM AT ITS WORST!!!!!! What a "Terrible Horror Story in our History! Thats "Klan", not American??????

    July 9, 2011 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  10. WiredwierdinSF

    This fools botox job has gone to her brain. She never had much and now she has even less. I do not want Nacny Pelosi or Obozo the corrupt, inept, incompetent, union toady whose only jobs have been hanging posters on telephone poles for the SEIU and its wholly owned subsidiary ACORN controlling my life. Get of my life libertards.

    July 9, 2011 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  11. Patrick from Minnesota

    When Boehner and his cohorts are unemployed after 2012, they should enroll in an acredited high school macroeconomics class and learn how the economy really works.

    July 9, 2011 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  12. Ken in NC

    Let me see now, as a Republican I will be charged with holding the line on a pledge I signed to Mr. Norquest that says “NO Revenue Increases” of any type vs. our government going into default on our financial obligations. I have to honor my pledge to him over my oath to the people. The government be dammed.

    July 9, 2011 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  13. GI Joe

    We need Nancy back in charge of the House. At least she was strong and got things done for the REAL Americans in this country, and she wasn't boo-hooing all over the place (alcohol related problem for Boner).

    Let's take this country back from the extremists that lied their way into poer last year by promising jobs and then "naming buildings", attacking women's rights, standing up for subsidies for some of their "farms" and big oil companies, etc.

    If you have a republican or tea-bagging representing in your district, VOTE THEM OUT IN 2012.

    July 9, 2011 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  14. duckbutter

    old wrinkel nancy ... i am sure there is no need to change the three biggest government agency...we know there is no waste at stupid do you think the american people are, stop just covering for your voteing block....

    July 9, 2011 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  15. GI Joe

    The republican's pledge to Grover Norquist obviously means more to them than the People of this Country, and more to them than our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    Kick the un-American (fascist) republicans OUT.

    July 9, 2011 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  16. sue

    Did you ever wonder why big companies aren't hiring? They are just like the GOP they don't want the employment sector to grow while Obama is in office because the Democrats want to take away their tax loop holes so they want the Republicans to get into office.....the Koch Brothers and big Oil companies are holding of the biggest ways to get our debt down is to make them pay the taxes they owe instead of all the loopholes they get.....and it was these same Republicans that let Bush pander to these corporations that got us into this trouble in the first it isn't Obama's fault...the Republicans motto is the same as big businesses.....ONE TERM for Obama and then they will take us back to the distructive Bush era.......

    July 9, 2011 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  17. Bill from GA

    It's about time the dems realize that their votes count in our Government. mcconnell is fond of saying "That would never pass with the Republicans in Congress". Well, if our government is to represent the people of this country, it has to work both ways.

    July 9, 2011 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  18. Tony in Maine

    It's time to draw a line in the sand – if the wealthy are exempt from the pain of deficit reduction as Boehner, Cantor, McConnell and their patrons the Koch Gang want – then we the people will vote them out of office. The Republicans will go the way of the Whigs and a more sane right of center party will emerge.

    July 9, 2011 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  19. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The top 1 or 2% of the rich aren't complaining they're broke nor or they complaining about paying higher taxes or threatening to leave this country. It's the Republican Party/Tea Party who need to leave this country and go to another country to install their Aparthied Government, not here in America.

    July 9, 2011 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  20. cmp01

    When our politicians realize they are working for the American ppl and not the elitist they have come. They are public servants to the ppl of America. They have forgotten. They have become the elitist of this country. Million dollar annual for their staff, cars, credit cards, jets, healthcare and pensions. Democrats had 800 days to pass a budget and failed. Now in America's 11th hour the republicans are being blamed as they are trying to pull a budget together to save our country! Our politicians have failed us. It shows daily and we allow it. All the politicians should no longer be paid(and stripped of all perks) without a budget deal for what they failed to accomplish. We as American must stand against this elitist group and hire ppl who truly love American and not the perks of the job.

    July 9, 2011 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  21. CAWinMD

    It's time for House Democrats to grow up. They've been saying that you can't cut your way out of this deficit, and that's true. But it is also equally true that you can't tax your way out of this deficit. It takes both. They complain when you only take on the discretionary part of the budget, which is true. But that means you have to take on the non-discretionary, and that includes entitlements. Prudent cuts in entitlements is not solving the deficit on the backs of the poor and elderly, as long as those cuts are coupled with revenue increases. That's where they Republicans need to grow up.

    July 9, 2011 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  22. vic , nashville ,tn

    Obama ready to through his party under the bus for 2012 he is doing a wrong calculation

    “programs that serve as safety nets for the elderly, poor and disabled.” True same time because of these programs many Americans still have JOBS

    Once you cut those programs many will lose their JOBS

    We have to reduce our deficits with out affecting job market

    July 9, 2011 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  23. annie s

    Stand firm Nancy, and get the Dems to fall in line. The President is only going to throw the middle class and seniors under the bus if we let him. The ONLY acceptable change in Medicare and Social Security is to gradually raise the benefit age.

    July 9, 2011 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  24. WiredwierdinSF

    You gotta laugh at the retarded liberals responding to this. They simply don't have a clue. Which also means they are probably products of the NEA dominated education system, can't find jobs because of the drug test requirement and will always vote democratic because they have never been taught to think for themselves. If they do have jobs, they are union members and believe whatever their corrupt union bosses tell them or they would not be union members to begin with. It is al the rot of the democrat liberal philosophy.

    July 9, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  25. vic , nashville ,tn


    Cut fund for NPR 24 x 7 in Murdoch’s network Today James Murdoch may face criminal charges . Fox doesn’t want speak even

    When your on top look after the bottom other wise you will hit the bottom

    July 9, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
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