House Liberals Launch Drive Against Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security
Greg Sargent has a letter from the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Reps. Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, to Dem leader Nancy Pelosi intended to galvanize Dems against cuts to social insurance programs in the debt ceiling negotiations. The letter reads:
We write in strong agreement with your unwavering defense of the Democratic programs that form the bedrock of America’s middle and working classes, and which are overwhelmingly popular.
On July 7, you made very clear that “We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of America’s seniors, women and people with disabilities” and that “we do not support cuts in benefits” for vital safety-net programs. We agree completely.
Especially in these tough economic times, we should not be cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits that millions of our constituents paid into and depend on. Such benefit cuts should be off the table in current debt discussions.
Our Republican colleagues should be embarrassed by their insistence that unless Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits are cut, the nation will default on its debts. Middle-class families have sacrificed enough, and a deal that pushes the American Dream further out of reach, in order to pay for extending tax breaks for the rich and corporations, is simply unacceptable.
We are united as Democrats in saying that it’s time to stand up to the Republican hostage-taking. We will not be forced to vote for a “final agreement” that we do not agree to — and that the American people do not agree to.
We stand united with you in insisting that benefit cuts for working families, our seniors, children, and people with disabilities must be off the table, and we stand united with you in fighting for millions of Americans who need Democrats to be firmly on their side.
It's well established that cuts to Medicaid are in the mix. Sen. Max Baucus has confirmed that a "blended payment rate" proposal for the program is included in the negotiations. The proposal, advanced by the White House, would cut Medicaid payments to states, inevitably resulting in states dropping services and kicking beneficiaries out of the system. Ultimately, it would also undercut the Affordable Care Act, since an expansion of Medicaid is critical to the expansion of health coverage in the new law.
The Chained CPI may or may not be still in consideration. Rep. Barney Frank said Pelosi assured her caucus it would not be included, but Pelosi herself "punted." There's no guarantee, by any means, that this Social Security cut is not in the works. Right now, everything from raising the Medicare eligibility age to provider cuts that could reduce access to doctors have been floated in the media. There's no question that social insurance programs are on the chopping block in one way or another.
A unified Dem front in the House potentially could stave off the worst of these cuts. As Sargent says, they'd have at least some leverage if they could get a sufficient number of signatures, because "Obama and John Boehner are likely to need a sizable bloc of Dems to get the final deficit compromise through the House." If it helps the House Dems any, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Sanders say that there's opposition in the Senate Dem caucus as well. Sanders says "senators have told him that they are not willing to vote for a 'piece of crap' deal and that the White House is in for a 'serious surprise' if it expects the Senate to approve any package it hands down."
That's the state of the negotiations on the progressive Dem side, as we move into a weekend of negotiations.