December 4, 2012

Republicans offer $2.2 trillion deficit-cutting plan

The proposal to trim Medicare and Social Security while capping tax deductions is called 'nothing new.'

Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — House Republicans, rejecting President Obama's demand for higher tax rates, countered with a $2.2 trillion deficit-cutting plan that would trim Medicare and Social Security and cap tax deductions for top earners.

The proposal, in a letter Monday to Obama from House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders, seeks $800 billion in tax revenue in the next decade and would slow the growth in Social Security cost-of-living payments. It would reduce entitlement program costs by at least $900 billion, including raising the Medicare eligibility age, and cut $300 billion in discretionary spending.

The proposal "does not meet the test of balance," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement. "In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill."

He said the plan included "nothing new."

Obama and congressional leaders are trying to avert more than $600 billion in tax increases and automatic spending cuts starting in January. The talks reached a stalemate late last week when Republicans rejected Obama's proposal to raise $1.6 trillion in taxes, including by raising tax rates on the top 2 percent of earners.

Monday's offer is "absolutely movement," said Joe Minarik, a budget aide in President Bill Clinton's administration. "If Republicans accept revenues, Democrats have to move a little bit" on entitlements.

Still, Minarik said, "Democrats don't want to touch" Social Security and the Medicare eligibility age. Obama and other Democratic leaders have repeatedly said that Social Security is off the table.

Boehner said the Republican offer tracks a proposal made last year by Clinton's former chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, which would generate revenue by limiting deductions and credits instead of raising tax rates.

Bowles, though, said in an emailed statement that the proposal doesn't reflect his plan. "Circumstances have changed since then," he said. "It is up to negotiators to figure out where the middle ground is today."

Boehner called Monday's Republican plan a "credible plan that deserves serious consideration by the White House." He described last week's White House proposal for $1.6 trillion in tax increases as a "la-la land offer."

Under the Republican proposal, increases in Social Security benefits would be reduced under a new method of calculating cost-of- living increases. The change would also apply to government pensions.

The plan would raise the eligibility age for Medicare recipients, currently 65. That would save $100 billion, according to an excerpt of Bowles's Nov. 1, 2011, congressional testimony, which was attached to the letter sent to Obama.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Calif., called the Republican proposal "another assault on the middle class, seniors and our future."

Boehner's letter said the additional $800 billion would come through "pro-growth tax reform that closes special-interest loopholes and deductions while lowering rates."

In the past, Republican calls for additional revenue through a rewrite of the tax code have meant the money would come from economic growth, though aides said the $800 billion would include a tax increase.

Obama's plan would trade $600 billion in spending cuts for $1.6 trillion in tax increases, primarily targeting families with more than $250,000 in annual income.

 

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