December 5, 2012

Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

It’s a perennial fear among liberals: In the quest for a fiscal cliff deal, the White House and Democrats will ultimately acquiesce to GOP demands to raise the Medicare eligibility age. But one Democrat is drawing a line against this possibility: Nancy Pelosi.

“I am very much against that, and I think most of my members are,” Pelosi said in an interview with me today. “I don’t see any reason why that should be in any agreement.”

The argument against raising the eligibility age is that it would leave hundreds of thousands of seniors without health coverage and wouldn’t raise that much money for deficit reduction, since many of those seniors would go into Medicaid or the Obamacare exchanges, offsetting savings. The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that it would save $125 billion over 10 years.

Pelosi echoed this complaint succinctly, saying: “Show me the money.” She also said flatly that she didn’t believe raising the eligibility age would be in the final deal, despite GOP demands: “I don’t anticipate that it will be in it.”

It’s unclear how much influence Pelosi will have over any final deal. The Beltway chatter holds that she will have very little. But if tax hikes are in the compromise, there may be major Republican defections, meaning as many as 100 or more House Dems could be needed to pass it. Public statements like the above are meant to signal to the White House what her caucus can accept.

 Pelosi also had some interesting things to say about the debt limit. Obama said today that Democrats would refuse to negotiate if Republicans try to hold the debt ceiling hostage next year to extract major spending cuts. But behind the scenes, some Dems seem to prefer to get the debt limit resolved this year, which could mean it will get drawn into the talks and perhaps undercut the notion that Dems won’t negotiate at all over it.

But Pelosi insisted Congressional Dems would remain firmly behind Obama’s unyielding stance. The Obama administration is pushing for the “McConnell provision,” which would effectively remove Congress’ authority over the debt ceiling, though Congress could still vote to disapprove of raising it.

 “We are on the exact same page as the president on the subject,” Pelosi said.

There is one way she parts ways with Obama on raising the debt ceiling, however: She would invoke the 14th Amendment option to circumvent opposition, which Obama does not support. Said Pelosi: “I would use the constitution. Of course I would.”

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.