The White House is playing down a report that the President is willing to consider cuts to Social Security as part of a deal to raise the debt-ceiling and reduce the nation’s long-term deficits.
White House spokesman Jay Carney several times during Wednesday’s press briefing criticized a report in the Washington Post, saying the reporter “overwrote” it and questioning the motives of the story’s sources.
Insisting the President has not changed his position on whether Social Security should be included in the debt-ceiling negotiations, Carney pointed to Obama’s January remarks in the State of the Union that he wants to engage in a bipartisan process to strengthen Social Security in a “balanced way” that preserves the promise of the program and does not “slash benefits.”
Obama wants to create a dialogue “where every participant feels that he or she can bring to the room issues that they think are important,” Carney said. “That doesn’t mean that the President’s position has changed at all.”
Since discussions began about raising the debt-ceiling earlier this year, Obama and his administration officials have insisted that Social Security is not driving the nation’s debt problems and any overhaul effort should not be included in a broad deal to increase the nation’s borrowing power.
When asked what Carney and the President mean when they say the White House is opposed to “slashing” Social Security benefits, Carney would not characterize their interpretation of what level of cuts or modifications would be acceptable.
“The President is interested in strengthening Social Security in the long term in ways that preserve the promise of the program and don’t slash benefits…,” Carney said. “I’m not going to get into line items and how you achieve that.”
“Slash it’s like that,” Carney said, bringing down his arm in a downward movement, “A significant whack…I think slashing is pretty sharp. It’s not the same thing as cut, it’s a slash…and I don’t mean the guitarist.”