House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called on President Obama and Democrats to specify entitlement cuts that could balance their desires for tax increases in a hypothetical deal to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff,” even though only Republicans have demanded spending cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security. Despite their support for putting entitlement programs on the chopping block, GOP lawmakers have refused to specify how, or by how much, they would cut the programs.
Boehner, instead, used a press conference today to urge Democrats to take the lead on entitlements, even though Obama and Democratic leaders made it clear that they would not support a deal that cut Social Security, and Democrats have repeatedly opposed the Medicare changes Republicans have attempted to make in the past:
BOEHNER: There has been no serious discussion of spending cuts so far. And unless there is, there is a real danger of going off the fiscal cliff. […] So right now all eyes are on the White House…It’s time for the President, Congressional Democrats to tell the American people what spending cuts they’re willing to make.
Q: Why will you not tell Democrats, what specific spending cuts you would like to see, especially within entitlements?
BOEHNER: It’s been very clear over the last year and a half. I’ve talked to the President about many of them. You can look at our budget, where we outlined very specific proposals, where we passed in last year’s budget and the budget from the year before. We know what the menu is, what we don’t know is what the White house is willing to do to get serious about solving our debt crisis.
Q: So your 2011 position still stands, then? I mean, are you still offering, those talks from 2011, is that still the basis here?
BOEHNER: Listen, I’m not going to get into the details, but it’s very clear what kind of spending cuts need to occur, but we have no idea what the White House is willing to do.
The entitlement cuts Boehner and the Republicans have already approved, like turning Medicare into a voucher program, are vastly unpopular with Americans, who have long opposed cuts to Medicare and Social Security (past polls, in fact, have shown that they prefer increases in the programs). Recent polling shows that even Republican voters oppose Medicare cuts. Americans rejected the Republican Medicare plan during the 2012 election, when losing vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan insisted that the GOP could win the debate about specific changes to the program.
Democrats, meanwhile, have already passed reforms to strengthen Medicare — Obama’s health care law cut $716 billion and lengthened the program’s life by eight years, according to the Congressional Budget Office — and Democratic senators have proposed legislation that would extend the life of Social Security, while also increasing benefits for all recipients. Republicans opposed the Medicare cuts in Obamacare and have not shown a willingness to support Democratic proposals on Social Security.