Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, speaking on Nevada Public Radio, let it be known that there is not going to be a “Grand Bargain”. While the Senate bill that ended the shutdown seemed to open the door for a deal that would cut Social Security and Medicare, Reid was adamant that was not going to be the case.
Reid rebuked the Nevada Public Radio host when he was asked what Republicans would have to concede to get Medicare and Social Security cuts on the table.
“You keep talking about Medicare and Social Security. Get something else in your brain. Stop talking about that. That is not going to happen this time. There is not going to be a grand bargain,” Reid said. “What we need to do is have Murray and her counterpart in the House, Ryan, work together to come up with something to get out of this senseless sequestration and start the budgeting process so that we can do normal appropriation bills.”
Is that what he told President Obama? Because he does not appear to have gotten the message.
Nor has Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. Van Hollen says he is open to changing Social Security and Medicare.
Van Hollen said he would be open to finding savings in Medicare in ways that focus on giving care providers incentives to cut costs. He said he would want to avoid changes that reduce the benefits that Americans receive.
One idea that would be a tough sell with Democrats is a change in the way that cost-of-living increases are calculated in Social Security. The change would be made by adopting a less-generous gauge of inflation, known as the “chained Consumer Price Index,” or chained CPI. Such a plan “creates a whole lot of problems within the Democratic caucus,” Van Hollen acknowledged.
Regardless of legislators’ wishes, the House-Senate budget conference will likely just redirect the austerity of the current budget. In other words, the funding level stays the same but special interests will be protected from automatic sequestration cuts. The poor and powerless will take the pain.
It will be interesting to see which members of Congress really want to push for cuts to Social Security and Medicare outside of the Tea Party as the 2014 elections approach.