A couple days ago, Dick Durbin was confronted by constituents in Illinois and forced to take a position on the uncontroversial values-based statement that said:
“Social Security and Medicare is based on a promise that if you pay in, you earned the right to guaranteed benefits… cuts to Social Security and Medicare will have a devastating effect on people and our communities… the revenue crisis should not be solved on the backs of seniors, people with disabilities, women and children.”
Cornered by activists, Durbin expressed support for those values, and said he was about to get on a plane to advocate for said values in Washington. Durbin pointedly wouldn’t sign a pledge expressing support for those values, however. Forty-eight activists were arrested at the rally after Durbin left. Here’s what Durbin said:
Durbin returned moments later to voice an endorsement for the values statement, pledging his support to oppose cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
“We’re in this together. We want to make Social Security longer and stronger. We’ve got to keep Medicare where it’s at and stay and stand by Medicaid,” said Durbin, who said the Republican Party believes “we are in this alone.”
It took Durbin all of two days to retreat to friendlier confines, where he made this statement of support for the fake Republican Super Committee offer to “raise revenues.”
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) diverged from Democratic colleagues Wednesday and applauded the Republican offer to raise $300 billion in new taxes as part of a deficit-reduction deal.
Democratic members of the supercommittee on Tuesday had panned the GOP offer as insufficient.
Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democratic leader, chose to focus on the positive and hailed the latest development as a “breakthrough.” He was worked on a massive deficit-reduction package for more than a year as a member of the Simpson-Bowles commission and the Senate’s Gang of Six.
“The fact that some Republicans have stepped forward to talk about revenue, I think, is an invitation for Democrats to step forward and talk about entitlement reform as well as spending cuts. Therein lies the core of an agreement,” Durbin said.
Let’s be very clear what Durbin was praising. The Republican offer on revenue is to cap deductions for the wealthy, which charitable media outlets are calling a “net increase” in revenue of $300 billion. But the condition the Republicans have laid out is a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts, which would actually cut taxes overall from current law by $3.6 trillion. So their big “concession” is a giveaway of $3.3 trillion in tax cuts. And according to some reports, it’s worse than that: the plan would CUT the top marginal tax rate from 35% to 28%.
Democrats on the committee saw right through this and immediately turned down the offer. “I have yet to see a real, credible plan that raises revenue in a significant way to bring us to a fair, balanced proposal,” said the co-chair of the committee, Patty Murray, who presumably knows what’s been offered.
And Durbin lauds it! And says that it gives an opening – demands a response – for Democrats to submit a plan on “entitlement reform.” This comes TWO DAYS after he told activists in the streets in Chicago that “We want to make Social Security longer and stronger. We’ve got to keep Medicare where it’s at and stay and stand by Medicaid.” I know his conception of making Social Security longer and stronger probably means cutting benefits through chained CPI. But there’s not a lot of wiggle room on the other two points.
Of course, Republicans seized on this weakness from the member of the Democratic Senate leadership. “My view is exactly the view Sen. Durbin expressed,” Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said to reporters.
We learned this week that the current, meager social safety net for seniors is not enough to keep a substantial chunk of them out of poverty. To Durbin, the way to strengthen these safety net plans is to enter into a bargain with Republicans, apparently one of slashing this safety net further for massive tax cuts. Not one Democrat bought the nonsense that the GOP was willing to “talk about revenue” when they put out this sham proposal. Only Durbin.
At least Joe Lieberman had the decency to retire.
UPDATE: Here’s the walkback:
“Something I said this morning may have been slightly misconstrued. Here’s what I stand by: I believe the fact that Republicans have mentioned the word “revenue” is a breakthrough. Now, I have not endorsed their proposal, nor do I think it’s the endgame by any means. But the fact that they have put revenues on the table is an important step forward.”
Quite a low bar for a “breakthrough,” ay?