Budget talks focus on 'the hard stuff' with tough decisions in play on health care, new revenues

Partisan differences on core issues such as taxes and Medicare spending continue to be a part of the deficit-reduction negotiations being led by Vice President Joe Biden, who says the talks will go on "around the clock" next week as lawmakers work to resolve the stand-off over raising the nation's debt limit.

Los Angeles Times: Negotiators Plan For Marathon Talks On Deficit
Deficit-reduction negotiations will continue essentially around the clock next week as Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders seek to resolve the stand-off over raising the nation's $14.3-trillion debt limit and send jittery financial markets a message that Washington can tackle its fiscal problems. Biden said that negotiators are aiming for $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade even as the differences remain on the core issues of taxes and Medicare health spending (Mascaro, 6/16).

The Washington Post: Biden On Debt-Reduction Talks: Negotiators 'Getting Down To The Real Hard Stuff'
Next week, Biden said, negotiators from the White House and Capitol Hill will begin working "around the clock" to bridge the yawning philosophical divide between the two parties, as Democrats press for fresh revenue and Republicans push for significant cuts to federal health programs as part of the debt-reduction package (Montgomery, 6/16).

The Fiscal Times/Associated Press: Biden: Tough Tradeoffs Ahead in Budget Talks
Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that negotiators for a plan to cut the federal deficit have completed a thorough review of the government's budget and will turn to the difficult trade-offs needed to cut trillions of dollars over the coming decade. Biden said that both sides have signaled what they might be willing to accept as part of a larger agreement but that they haven't tackled really tough decisions on health care or new revenues (Taylor, 6/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Biden Talks Aimed At $4 Trillion In Cuts Over 10 Years
The focus of Thursday's meeting was spending programs that are renewed each year automatically without congressional action. The largest of these programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — weren't the focus of discussion. Instead Mr. Cantor said the talks Thursday involved "non-health care" programs. The biggest ticket items likely to be affected by a budget agreement are subsidies paid to farmers and the federal employee pension scheme (Boles and Peterson, 6/16).

CNN: Biden: Debt Talks Make Progress But Differences Remain
Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he and congressional negotiators have done a "first serious scrub" of the entire federal budget but differences remain over big-ticket items that philosophically divide the two parties in their quest for an agreement that would raise the nation's debt ceiling while putting in place long-term reductions to the nation's $14.3 trillion debt. Those big-ticket items include whether to increase tax revenues - which many Democrats want - and making changes to expensive entitlements like Medicare - which many Republicans support (Barrett, 6/16).

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that AARP has changed it historic opposition to trimming the Social Security program - a step that could have a significant impact on the entitlement reform debate.

The Wall Street Journal: Key Seniors Association Pivots On Benefit Cut
AARP, the powerful lobbying group for older Americans, is dropping its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits, a move that could rock Washington's debate over how to revamp the nation's entitlement programs (Meckler, 6/17).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis 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.

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