House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says Democrats have shown a capacity to reform entitlements when they cut $500 billion in Medicare spending as part of the 2010 health-care reform. But “if the plan is to extend the Bush tax cuts and to repeal the Medicare guarantee for our seniors, well, that's not balanced and that's a place we cannot go,” she said at a press briefing on Thursday.
Individual Democrats on the panel, most notably Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts, have discussed the prospect of raising the eligibility age for Medicare or charging more to those who can afford it, but only if Republicans agree to more robust tax hikes, according to unconfirmed accounts of the deliberations.
But GOP leaders on and off the super committee say Democrats have yet to rally around a proposal. “There is only one proposal on the table in the committee, and that came from the six Republican members that outlined what we’d be willing to do,” said House Speaker John Boehner at a briefing on Thursday.
“There have been discussions amongst individual members, but it’s very clear to me that there has never been a Democratic position – not one. Not one time have they coalesced around a plan,” he added.
But even the prospect of cuts to entitlements is a red flag to many Democrats, wary that support for entitlement cuts by Democrats on the super committee breaks faith with seniors and jeopardizes prospects for Democrats to hold the Senate or take back the House in 2012.
At a packed briefing on Thursday – replete with alarm clock props – top Senate liberals sought to send a message to the super committee to “wake up!” on the need to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from deficit cuts.