Both programs would be affected under the framework Obama envisions. One option, a proposal to change the measure of inflation used to calculate Social Security payouts, could affect benefits for current retirees. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) called that idea a deal breaker for many House Democrats. “Most of the members who have worked on this feel that if Social Security were put on the table, and Medicare, cuts in that area, that we as Democrats and progressives would be thrown under the bus,” he said.
Obama plans to meet privately with Pelosi on Friday to address rising Democratic anxiety.
In their public statements, meanwhile, Republicans appeared no more inclined to compromise. Even as Boehner voiced support for a bipartisan deal, he continued to draw a line against higher taxes.
“I’ve . . . made clear that we are not going to raise taxes on the American people, we are not going to raise taxes on the very people that we expect to re-invest in our economy,” Boehner told reporters Thursday after briefing House Republicans on his expectations for the White House meeting.
In private talks with the White House, Boehner has discussed various options for tax policy. One idea under discussion, according to aides in both parties, is a proposal to jump-start a thorough rewrite of the tax code.
Under that scenario, Republicans would agree to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class, leaving open the possibility that the Bush tax cuts that benefit the nation’s wealthiest households would expire next year. That would be a huge win for Democrats, who have long pledged to end tax breaks for the wealthy.
In return, Democrats would agree to a rewrite of the tax code that would eliminate dozens of tax breaks and use the cash to lower income tax rates, a GOP priority. But skeptical aides in both parties said it would be difficult to craft a mechanism that could force lawmakers to follow through.
Democrats are also skeptical that Republicans would agree to tax changes that would produce significant new revenue. To accept spending cuts that could exceed $3 trillion over the next decade, many Democrats want as much as $1 trillion in fresh revenue — a major concession that neither Boehner nor any other Republican has been willing to make.
Still, people briefed on talks at the White House said the big deal sought by Obama has emerged as the most popular option. In the meeting Thursday, Obama said he would not sign a small deal that fails to persuade lawmakers to raise the debt limit sufficiently to cover the nation’s bills through the end of next year. The only other option is to return to the medium-sized package that was under discussion in bipartisan talks led by Vice President Biden.
That package aimed to produce about $2.4 trillion in savings over the next decade. But it’s not clear that the Biden approach offers a safe fallback.
The Biden talks broke up when Republicans pulled out, insisting that they could not support higher taxes in any form.
Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.