Fiscal Cliff Negotiations: What the Dems Have on the Table

Several prominent Republicans including William Kristol, John McCain and Lindsey Graham have now publicly expressed their willingness to accept higher taxes or revenues (same thing) in order to reach a fiscal cliff deal. The Washington Post reviews what entitlement reforms the Democrats have been open to:

Social Security: President Obama doesn’t believe that Social Security reform should be part of any fiscal cliff deal. Instead, given that the program is funded by its own trust fund, Social Security should be addressed on a “separate track,”said White House spokesman Jay Carney. ”We should address the drivers of the deficit and Social Security currently is not a driver of the deficit.”

Medicare benefits: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told Politico on Tuesday that “Medicare benefit cuts should be completely off the table.” But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was a bit more vague, saying that he wants to push for changes “that don’t hurt beneficiaries.” One potential compromise would be to change premiums but not cut benefits — for example, to require wealthier seniors to pay more for Medicare, as some Republicans have suggested in the past.

Medicare eligibility age: That was one of the proposals that was part of the Obama-Boehner talks during the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis, which ultimately fell apart on revenue issues. Some Democrats, like Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), have ruled it out entirely. But others have left a window open for potential negotiation.

Medicaid: Democrats have mostly avoided weighing in on specific cuts or reforms to Medicaid, which was expanded significantly under the Affordable Care Act, other than to say they oppose benefit cuts. Durbin, however, suggested that savings might be found through the waiver process, which gives states more flexibility in determining eligibility and benefits, and in coordinating care for “dual-eligibles” who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare.

If all this looks pretty unspecific you’d be right. At this point both sides have kept their cards close to the chest. Given how spectacularly they failed during the debt ceiling negotiations this is understandable.

Its no secret that Democrats have been  more willing to compromise, and therefore have been willing to give up much more during negotiations. There are glimmers of hope on the Republican side, but too many still look upon compromise as heresy. That is the ultimate irony in all of this: Obama handed John Boehner the single largest victory conservatives have ever had during the debt ceiling negotiations. The Tea Party’s position on compromise clearly shows their lack of seriousness in matters of government ( as if the tri-corner hats and Obama-as-Hitler signs weren’t evidence enough).

When it comes to governing, perfect truly is the enemy of good. The Republicans would do well to remember that.

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