Thursday, July 7, 2011

Social Security, Medicare on the Table in Debt Negotiations

Updated at 3:45 p.m. edt

For the first time, GOP House Speaker John Boehner is telling members of his party there is a 50-50 chance there could be a deal in the next few weeks on raising the debt limit.

"We had a conversation. It was productive," Boehner said after returning to the Capitol from the White House meeting.

Sources disclosed the shift in Boehner's position after President Obama sweetened the pot in the debt-ceiling negotiations, floating a new plan to slash about $4 trillion in spending over the next decade, instead of the roughly $2 trillion in cuts that have been on the table until now.

According to The Washington Post, the President is prepared to offer a chunk of the savings in reductions or alterations to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, if Republicans abandon their refusal to eliminate corporate tax loopholes.

The President told all eight leaders from both parties of the House and Senate when they met today that he does not want to tackle the debt problem by only making the middle class and poor Americans feel the pain. They are expected to meet again Sunday.

"Everybody acknowledges that there's going to be pain involved politically on all sides," Obama said after what he described as a productive meeting.

But now the plan may be something he has to sell his liberal backers on, since Democrats and the progressives have said they haves said hands off the entitlement programs.

"Let us be clear, Social Security has not contributed one nickel to our deficit or our national debt. Social Security is funded by the payroll tax, not the U.S. Treasury," Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders said. "I am especially disturbed that the President is considering cuts in Social Security after he campaigned against cuts in 2008."

Obama wants a deal by July 22nd -- 10 days before the Aug. 2 drop-dead date when the U.S. starts defaulting on its bills and likely sends the financial markets into chaos.

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