“We’ll make the tough reforms required to strengthen Medicare for the future, without undermining the rock-solid guarantee at its core,” Obama said in a Saturday address.
Some prominent Senate Democrats, including Richard Durbin of Illinois, are also urging entitlement reforms. In a March interview with The Wall Street Journal, he said the cost of fixing the mismatch between spending and revenue for these programs gets harder the longer the nation waits to act.
Moreover, he noted that Democrats currently have the clout to shape the debate. “If we don’t do this now with a Democratic president in the White House, what’s going to happen next?” he asked. “Here’s a president who’s serious about it, who’s on our side philosophically, and now we can sit down with the Republicans and be in a stronger bargaining position.”
Republicans see the president's plan on entitlements as at least a step in the right direction.
“The president acknowledging that something must be done to prevent their looming bankruptcy is a positive development,” said Brendan Buck, press secretary for House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio, in a statement released Tuesday.
The hurdles facing legislation remain large, however.
Obama and Democrats want Republicans to back additional tax revenue as part of an entitlement-reform deal; Republicans respond that they’ve already let taxes rise on the rich (in the “fiscal cliff” deal struck in January), and that now it’s time to control spending.