Is it possible that Democrats participating in the Biden-led deficit reduction talks are drawing a hard line against any cuts to Medicare benefits?
Many liberals fear that Dems will cave on this point. But according to Dem Rep. James Clyburn, one of the Dems at the table in the Biden negotiations, Dems will not agree to any cuts that compromise benefits in any way.
Clyburn made the claim in an interview with Bloomberg News that’s set to air this weekend, a transcript of which is now on line. In the interview, Clyburn revealed that negotiators were zeroing in on up to $6 trillion in cuts, but when asked about Medicare, he seemed to take benefits off the table.
“We are not going to reduce benefits at all,” Clyburn said, when pressed on what he was willing to agree to on Medicare. He insisted that the Medicare reforms in the Affordable Care Act should be looked at as a template for moving forward.
“I would ask everybody to take a hard look at what we did last year, ” Clyburn said. “Over a 10-year period, what we did could be sufficient going forward.”
It’s hard to know what to make of this. It’s unclear whether Clyburn is merely reciting the hard-line position of House Dems, or whether he’s articulating the position that Democrats, the White House and Senate Dems included, have unified behind. But if it’s the latter, that would square with Nancy Pelosi’s recent claim that the talks are moving in a positive direction for those who oppose any benefits cuts.
Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell said today that Republicans will not agree to a debt ceiling hike without substantial cuts to Medicare, which would presumably require benefits cuts. So if Dems are indeed holding firm against any cost shifting to seniors, a major confrontation could be looming.