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Posted at 06:03 PM ET, 05/16/2011

Pelosi: Medicare is on the table in debt-limit talks

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday that House Democrats are open to including reforms of entitlement programs such as Medicare in the ongoing talks on a deficit-reduction plan, although they remain opposed to the sweeping changes in House Republicans’ 2012 budget blueprint.

“When we’re talking about Medicare, we are open to many [changes],” Pelosi said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Peter Cook. “We are listening to every suggestion. But one suggestion we are not open to is the abolishment of Medicare. That is what the Republicans have put forth in their budget. We do not support that.”

Pelosi added that while “abolishing Medicare is not on the table, considering some changes to funding and the rest, that is a different story.”

“We cannot take that off of the table,” she said.

House Democrats’ stated openness to Medicare reform isn’t likely to translate into a campaign-trail cease-fire on the issue, however. On Monday, House Democrats’ campaign arm unleashed robo-calls hammering Republicans in 20 key districts for their votes in favor of the House GOP budget.

The calls accuse Republicans of “ending Medicare to pay for subsidies for Big Oil making huge profits or tax breaks for the ultra rich.”

Republicans have countered by accusing Democrats of using “scare tactics” on the issue and maintaining that Democrats have not proposed any plan of their own to save the entitlement program, which is on track to be depleted by 2024.

Congressional leaders have met twice this month with White House officials to negotiate a way forward on a deficit-reduction plan, although several participants in the talks have said that the toughest issues have yet to be addressed.

Pelosi, who was in New York City on Monday speaking with financial executives, said that she was hopeful about the White House-led talks, adding that any debt-limit deal will likely require the support of both Republicans and Democrats in order to win passage.

“I do not think Speaker [John] Boehner, with all due respect to his line in the sand, has ever said, ‘I guarantee the Republicans in the Congress will vote to lift the debt ceiling to not go into default,’” Pelosi said. “He just said, ‘This is what we are demanding.’ They did not have the votes on the continuing resolution. They have not had the votes each step of the way. We are going to have to be at the table if we are going to produce this vote.”

By  |  06:03 PM ET, 05/16/2011

 
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