Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell outlined potential changes to Medicare and Social Security in an interview Friday, providing fresh clarity on the concessions Republicans would like to see from Democrats on cutting the costs of the federal entitlement programs.Well, of course the Obama-Dems have no interest at all in cutting spending, much less compromising with the Republicans.
Mr. McConnell (R., Ky.) said bipartisan agreement on higher Medicare premiums for the wealthy, an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and slowing cost-of-living increases for Social Security could move both parties closer to a budget deal that averts the so-called fiscal cliff, the combination of spending cuts and tax increases that start in early January unless Washington acts.
In return for the support of Democrats, he said, Republicans would agree to include more tax revenue in a budget deal, though not from higher rates.
"Those are the kinds of things that would get Republicans interested in new revenue," Mr. McConnell said.
Democrats played down Mr. McConnell's comments and framed the debate from their own point of view: If Republicans instead agreed to raise income-tax rates for high earners, a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff could be quickly reached.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said there was "nothing new" in Mr. McConnell's comments. A senior administration official said the White House would make no new offers until Republicans changed their opposition to raising top tax rates.
Democrats said they were still awaiting a formal GOP proposal. "Republicans are still choosing not to put forward an actual offer, and we can't respond to an interview," said Adam Jentleson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.).
Mr. McConnell's cost-saving suggestions, however, mark a clearer articulation of the compromises his side was demanding.
Republicans have said they would agree to revenue increases if Democrats went along with proposals intended to put safety-net programs on sounder financial footing. Democrats have countered that Republicans have been vague about what they want.
Mr. McConnell on Friday resurrected suggestions that were on the table during deficit-cut talks between Mr. Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) in the summer of 2011, negotiations that broke down in finger-pointing on both sides.
Talks to avoid the fiscal cliff, which government economists say could throw the U.S. economy into recession, were at "stalemate," House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said Friday. Still, he said, talks had not collapsed and added, "I'm willing to move forward in good faith."
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) said it was premature to expect major compromises. "It's too early," he said. "It's 31 days away."
Tensions between the two sides increased Thursday when Republicans dismissed a White House proposal that included $1.6 trillion in new taxes and $50 billion in infrastructure spending, among other things.
Mr. McConnell reiterated his rejection of that plan in Friday's interview, saying he laughed when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner presented it. "He noticed that I laughed," Mr. McConnell said. "That pretty well summed up my view of what he was saying."
The White House defended its offer. "This is the approach that garnered the president a lot of support in the election," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. He said the president's proposal shouldn't have come as a surprise to Republicans.
On taxes, Mr. McConnell repeated Friday the GOP's position that any new revenue should come from capping deductions, not raising rates. "It is revenue and it's from the group of people they want to get revenue from," he said, arguing for Democratic support.
See the Heritage Foundation, "Chart of the Week: Obama’s Fiscal Cliff Plan Has $4 of Tax Hikes to $1 of Cuts."
And here's the latest at the Washington Post, "‘Fiscal cliff’ talks at a stalemate over tax hikes."