Entitlement cuts should remain on the table as party leaders seek to hash out an end-of-the-year budget deal, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday.
A number of Democratic leaders — including Reps. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), John Larson (Conn.) and Xavier Becerra (Calif.) — have said they would support some spending reductions in Medicare, but that cuts to direct benefits should not be a part of the negotiations. Along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), they also maintain that Social Security reform has no place at all in the "fiscal cliff" talks.
But Hoyer, the Democratic whip, warned that taking entitlement benefits off the table is a bad place to start the negotiations. Such entrenched positions are little different, he said, than the Republicans’ refusal to consider hikes in tax rates — a central element of President Obama’s deficit-reduction proposal.
Hoyer said GOP proposals to raise the Medicare eligibility age, make wealthier seniors pay higher Medicare rates and limit the cost-of-living increases for some federal programs are legitimate ones, even as he warned he might not support them.
“They clearly are on the table,” Hoyer said of the Medicare changes during his weekly press briefing in the Capitol. “They were on the table in the Boehner-Obama talks. They’ve been on the table for some period of time. That does not mean that I’d be prepared to adopt them now, but they’re clearly, I think, on the table.”