Congressional leaders signal they are making progress in "fiscal cliff" talks. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., urged his party to back an immediate extension of Bush-era tax cuts for households earning less than $250,000 and focus on tax breaks for higher-income people later. Meanwhile, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, said that Medicare and other federal health care programs should be part of long-term solutions, but not a short-term deal.
The New York Times: House Republican Urges Party To Yield On Tax Cuts For Most Earners
Democrats said they would not accept cuts to Medicare or Medicaid as part of the upfront "down payment" on deficit reduction that would be passed next month along with a broader framework on tax and entitlement changes to be worked over in 2013. In a speech at the liberal Center for American Progress, Mr. Durbin still expressed confidence that beneath all the public posturing, the White House and Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, were making progress toward averting the so-called fiscal cliff. … Mr. Durbin said that Medicare should not be tapped for that upfront down payment but that federal health care programs should be part of next year's deliberations. And he opened the door for money-saving adjustments to Mr. Obama's signature health care law (Weisman, 11/27).
Los Angeles Times: Senate's No.2 Democrat Calls For Cuts To Social Safety Net
A top Democrat pressured fellow progressives Tuesday to consider long-term changes to the social safety net, even as the party digs in for a fight to save Medicare and other government programs from deep budget cuts. As closed-door talks continue with the hope of a year-end deal, President Obama will travel to a Pennsylvania toy store this week to pressure Congress to extend the expiring tax cuts for the middle class, while letting those for the wealthiest 2% of Americans expire (Mascaro and Parsons, 11/27).
USA Today: Durbin Outlines Liberal Plan To Avert 'Fiscal Cliff'
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., is optimistic President Obama and congressional leaders will reach a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of the year only if Republicans relent on their opposition to raising individual tax rates on the wealthy (Page, 11/27).
Bloomberg: Durbin Says Deficit-Reduction Talks Can Include Medicare
Deficit-reduction talks can include savings from Medicare without raising the eligibility age or turning it into a voucher program, said Richard Durbin, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat. Still, proposals to address the long-term solvency of Medicare and Social Security shouldn't be part of the current short-term negotiations to avert the year-end fiscal cliff, Durbin said in remarks prepared for his speech today in Washington. Though he didn't deliver that portion of his prepared speech, he told reporters he stood by the full text (Rubin, 11/27).
Reuters: Senior Democrat Durbin Urges Talks On Medicare
Dick Durbin, a senior Senate Democrat and close ally of President Barack Obama, urged fellow liberals on Tuesday to consider reforming Medicare and Medicaid, the U.S. healthcare programs they have long fought to shield from spending cuts. The timing of his message - just as Democrats and Republicans struggling to avoid the "fiscal cliff," looming early next year - and its prominence may signal that Democratic leaders and the White House will discuss social programs at the fiscal policy negotiating table (Dixon and Ferraro and Morgan, 11/27).
The Wall Street Journal: Democrats Harden Budget Positions
The White House and congressional Democrats hardened their budget positions on Tuesday and signaled they are prepared for partisan jockeying before any agreement to block impending spending cuts and tax increases can be reached with Republicans. Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), a rare liberal who has supported changes in Medicare and other entitlements as part of a broad budget deal, made clear he wouldn't back them under a short-term agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff (Hook and Lee, 11/27).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Senate Democrats Divided Over Cuts To Benefit Programs, Raising Roadblock To Any Fiscal Deal
Deep divisions among Senate Democrats over whether cuts to popular benefit programs like Medicare and Medicaid should be part of a plan to slow the government's mushrooming debt pose a big obstacle to a deal for avoiding a potentially economy-crushing "fiscal cliff," even if Republicans agree to raise taxes (11/28).
Politico: Democrats Talk Tough On Entitlements In Fiscal Cliff Debate
Congressional Democrats are starting to draw a much tougher line on entitlements in the increasingly messy fiscal cliff talks, warning Republicans to keep their hands off Social Security and Medicare benefits. Democrats also say they'll refuse to look at GOP calls to dramatically slash Medicaid. And for them to even entertain any changes to Medicare and Medicaid, they say the price is for Republicans to agree to far higher taxes than they have flirted with so far (Raju, 11/27).
Los Angeles Times: Reid, McConnell Clash On 'Fiscal Cliff,' Filibuster Rules
Asked about Sen. Richard Durbin's (D-Ill.) comments earlier in the day calling for major entitlement programs to remain open to negotiations, Reid partially agreed with his colleague. … Despite his complaints about Republican stonewalling, Reid said that he's still optimistic that a deal can be reached before the end of the year, when automatic federal tax hikes and spending cuts would kick in (Little, 11/27).
CQ HealthBeat: Labor Lobbies Hill On Entitlements, Bush Tax Cuts
AFL-CIO leaders orchestrated a "lobby fly-in day" Tuesday on Capitol Hill, with local labor leaders and their advocates from 33 states visiting lawmakers to urge them to refuse benefit cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and to let the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire for the top 2 percent of American earners. The effort coincided with a report the AFL-CIO issued that lists the number of people per state who currently get their health coverage through Medicaid. The report also highlights the amount of money Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security pump into each state's economy and the economic costs to individuals if the Medicare eligibility age were increased (11/27).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.