With stories swirling that Obama has privately offered major entitlement cuts to Republicans in exchange for revenue increases, it’s worth pointing out that after today’s private meeting, two top Dems fanned out on TV to insist that Dems will not touch Medicare benefits.
Here’s Chuck Schumer, the Dem messaging chief, on MSNBC:
The vast majority of Democats, House and Senate, have the view that Medicare benefits should not be cut. There’s also a generally-agreed-to view that there are savings to be wrought out of Medicare in the health care bill through making the system more efficient. Delivery system reform, making sure that when hospitals readmit people because they made a mistake they don’t get double reimbusement, things like that.
So, I think we’re pretty united, along with Speaker Pelosi that Medicare cuts, actual cuts in the benefits, are not something we would want to entertain.
Schumer was followed by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Dem on the House Budget Committee, who said this:
We will not balance the budget on the backs of Social Security beneficiaries, and we will not support cuts for Medicare beneficiaries. We do believe that there are ways to save additional funds. For example, on Medicare, one way to do that is to get a better deal for the Medicare program for the prescription drug industry. There are ways to generate additional revenues to help the Medicare solvency issue without slashing benefits to Medicare beneficiaries.
Now, as many have pointed out, when Dems say they will not “slash” Medicare benefits, they very well be leaving the door open to mere cuts. But it’s worth noting that his language from both Schumer and Van Hollen sounds a good deal better than some of the stories we awoke to this morning.
Also, both Dems made these statements literally right after today’s private meeting at the White House. So either they are sending a message to the Obama administration that Dems don’t want to cave on benefits, or they liked what they heard today at the White House, and wanted to double down on the Dem message drawing a hard line against benefits cuts. I think the latter is more likely.
Is it possible to cut Medicare without cutting benefits? As Brian Beutler wrote recently, it can be done, but it’s unlikely that Republicans will find that acceptable. I tend to think that some kind of cost shifting to Medicare beneficiaries is probably inevitable, but I’m glad Dems seem to still be drawing a hard line against it today.