House liberals demand meeting with Obama on Chained CPI

Top House progressives are demanding a sit down meeting with President Obama to underscore their opposition to any Social Security benefits cuts as part of a Grand Bargain — a sign that the left has no intention of allowing any cuts to go forward without a major fight.

The demand is being made in a letter that is set to be mailed to the President tomorrow, and was sent my way by a source. It is signed by Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva, along with Dem Reps. Jan Schakowsky, John Conyers, and Donna Edwards, and Senator Bernie Sanders. It says:

We write to request a meeting with you to discuss the inclusion of chained CPI in your recent budget proposal.

We appreciate your ongoing efforts to negotiated with Congressional Republicans in a serious, thoughtful manner, despite their unwillingness to consider a balanced approach. We also appreciate the many positive proposals in your budget, including much-needed additional revenue and the call for universal preschool. However, at a time when many Americans are struggling, cutting Social Security benefits would take money directly out of the pockets of American seniors and slow our economic recovery…a majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives and many Democratic Senators have expressed their vigorous opposition to cuts to earned benefit programs. [...]

We would be happy to discuss proposals to strengthen Social Security, such as lifting the payroll tax cap to allow wealthy Americans to contribute to Social Security on all of their income like everyone else. We look forward to meeting with you at your earliest convenience.

Over 100 House Dems have already signed a letter opposing Chained CPI, and many of the signatories are likely to be on tomorrow’s letter. Meanwhile, Senators Sanders and Tom Harkin introduced a resolution today opposing Chained CPI, signaling strong opposition among liberals in both chambers.

All of this comes at an interesting moment. Suddenly, the idea of temporarily turning off the sequester altogether is being seriously talked about by top Democrats. It required the outcry over sequestration-caused flight delays to bring it about, however. With Republicans complaining about the flight delays — and attacking Obama as responsible for them, even as Republicans claim the sequester as a victory for themselves — Harry Reid is now calling the GOP’s bluff by suggesting we simply cancel the sequester temporarily, by counting war savings to reduce the deficit.

The White House today endorsed Reid’s idea, claiming that we can temporarily cancel it while searching for a “balanced” replacement for it that includes spending cuts and tax hikes.

Liberals and unions have long been pushing for the simple cancelation of the sequester. And so progressives are hoping that by signaling anew that any Grand Bargain to replace it with entitlement benefits cuts will face extremely stiff headwinds from the left, it will make it that much more likely that Obama and Dem leaders will see suspending the sequester as a better outcome, and will push harder for it.

Republicans, of course, are all but certainly going to oppose that approach, even as their ongoing complaints about the FAA cuts will continue. Yes, it turns out that if you want to cut spending, you actually … have to cut spending to specific programs!

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