With just six days left until the Super Committee deadline, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) acknowledged Thursday that the panel is unlikely to agree on the sort of broad deficit-cutting bargain she and other Democratic leaders have pushed for. And she made a strong case that the GOP’s allergy to taxes is the reason her expectations have diminished.
Specifically, she responded to Republican Super Committee co-chair Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) who on Wednesday said Democrats would have to agree to dramatic steps — such as partially privatizing Medicare — before Republicans would agree to substantial new tax revenues.
“We have [put Medicare on the table], as a matter of fact,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly Capitol briefing.
As I mentioned we subscribed to what the President put forth in January. In his grand bargain, just to recall, there was a menu of savings that the President and the Speaker had put together from which some of these entitlement changes could take place. That’s one. As I said before we already have gone down this path a half a trillion dollars in savings to strengthen Medicare in the past. And one of the reasons to address the entitlement issue is to strengthen them. To prolong them. But if your goal is to eliminate them — if the goal of the Republicans is to say…that the Bush tax cuts must be extended…if the plan is to extend the Bush tax cuts and to repeal the Medicare guarantee for our seniors — well that’s not balance, and that’s a place we can not go.
Pelosi’s point is straightforward. Democrats cut Medicare spending by $500 billion over 10 years in the health care law — cuts Republicans attacked viciously in the 2010 midterm elections. They have offered up hundreds of billions more in cuts and savings — though not necessarily the same cuts and savings Republicans prefer — in deficit negotiations since then. But as Republicans made clear in their budget, and as they’ve hinted at in recent public statements, they want to fundamentally change the program — even phase it out. If Democrats are willing to engage them on that turf then maybe Republicans would offer up some new revenues — though even then they’d want the Bush tax rates frozen in place.
But if Democrats want to trim Medicare spending and pour that money back into the program to increase its solvency, that’s not something Republicans will really count as a concession.
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.