While Republicans race to set the expectation that they will reject any proposal from a powerful new fiscal committee if it includes higher tax revenues, don’t expect Democrats to be nearly as adamant about entitlement programs.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says her caucus will be broadly united in a fight to protect Medicare and other successful programs from cuts when the committee convenes to reduce deficits by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. But neither she nor the people she appoints to that committee will publicly draw bright lines.
“I’m not drawing any lines in the sand because I think it plays into their hand,” Pelosi told a small group of reporters invited to her office on Thursday morning. “When 12 clowns are in a ring and a sane person jumps into the ring he looks like the 13th clown…. It is part of their plan to keep the attention on this, and the debt and the who and the rest and I’m simply not going to do it.”
Far from suggesting that the Democrats she appoints on the committee will keep a wide-open mind to cutting benefits for seniors, she emphasized that her caucus is broadly unified against such measures. But she also said House Democrats on the committee will work toward a solution that’s better than allowing an enforcement mechanism — $500 billion in defense cuts, and domestic spending reductions, including a two percent cut to Medicare providers — to take effect.
“Everybody in our caucus is committed to whatever comes out of that be something that will be better than going to trigger,” she said. “If they’re drawing lines in the sand, let them look like the obstructionist…you won’t see me drawing lines in the sand.”
Pelosi denounced the GOP agenda in the strongest possible terms.
“It’s about destroying public space,” she said. “They’ve used the engine of deficit reduction as an excuse to destroy.” But she believes that making loud proclamations about what is and is not permissible to her caucus will simply help Republicans achieve their goal of keeping the issue of deficits — and thus an attack on key federal programs — at the top of the public agenda.
In other words, even if Republicans insist loudly and repeatedly from the outset that they’ll vote against a final deficit package if it has a penny in new revenue, Democrats won’t play the same game. That doesn’t mean they won’t block benefit cuts to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, but, at the very least, they won’t publicly dig in against them.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.