Speaker John Boehner addresses reporters at his weekly press briefing. (Harry Hamburg / Associated…)
As congressional negotiators met with Vice President Biden to begin deficit-reduction talks Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner refused to back away from the Republican proposal to privatize Medicare and make other changes to the nation’s health entitlement programs.
Top Republican lawmakers have acknowledged that the party’s proposal to change Medicare for the next generation of seniors is unlikely to gain ground with President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate. But Boehner insisted Thursday that all options remained on the table as negotiations were underway on a budget strategy that could win bipartisan support alongside an increase in the nation’s $14.3-trillion debt limit.
“When it comes to increasing the debt limit and the need for reductions in spending, nothing is off the table -- except raising taxes,” Boehner told reporters.
Boehner acknowledged the “political realities we face” in trying to pass the GOP plan to privatize Medicare and shift Medicaid costs to the states, as proposed in the 2012 budget by Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee. That proposal passed the House last month on a party line vote.
But the speaker insisted Republicans have offered a starting point by passing the plan, and Democrats should do the same. “We’ve put our plan on the table,” Boehner said.
Democrats have said any deficit-reduction strategy must include changes to the tax code, ending lucrative tax loopholes that cost the government revenue.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader, said: “I don't see how you can possibly talk about serious deficit reduction without talking about three things: cuts in spending; waste, fraud and abuse, which we are always on the alert for; and a change in the revenue scheme.”
Negotiators were meeting with Biden on Thursday as Congress faced an Aug. 2 deadline to increase the nation’s legal debt limit.