Hatch: Entitlement reforms should be on table in debt-limit talks


(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who faces a competitive re-election race in 2012, said in a statement Friday that a new report by the Medicare and Social Security Trustees underscores the need for entitlement reform to be addressed in the current debt-limit negotiations.

“This report makes one thing very clear: the status quo is a plan to end Medicare and Social Security,” said Hatch, who is also the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

“The path to tackling our over $14 trillion debt is reforming these two programs that look increasingly like nothing more than an empty promise that our kids and grandkids will pay for, but never see,” he added. “With the release of this report, I hope the White House has a change of heart and puts our entitlement programs -- the largest drivers of our debt -- on the table in discussions over deficit reduction.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also on Friday argued that the new report highlights the need for entitlement reform.

“Today’s Social Security and Medicare Trustees Report confirms the urgency required and the basic reality that doing nothing will lead to benefit cuts and the bankruptcy of these programs and our nation,” Rubio said in a statement. “In light of this report, Democrats should finally put forth their own ideas.”

The latest Medicare and Social Security Trustees annual report, released Friday, projects that the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted in 2036, one year earlier than previously estimated, while the Medicare fund will be depleted in 2024, five years earlier than expected.

In March, a group of 23 Republican senators wrote a letter to President Obama calling for entitlement reform to be a part of any eventual debt-limit deal. If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2, the U.S. would run the risk of default.

The White House and most Democrats remain opposed to Republican ideas for the entitlement programs, and polling shows that changing them remains politically perilous.

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