Senate Democrats have proposed the debt-reduction supercommittee pursue a plan to cut $3 trillion from the national budget over the next decade through significant cuts to federal health programs, including Medicare, as well as up to $1.3 trillion in new taxes.
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In a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) urged his colleagues to pick up where negotiations between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) left off this past summer. As part of negotiations over raising the federal debt limit, Obama and Boehner were discussing a plan that included provisions to raise taxes, increase the age of eligibility for Medicare, and adjust the measure of inflation used to calculate Social Security benefits.
According to congressional aides, Baucus proposed that the committee consider larger revenue increases, an idea to which Republicans on the panel swiftly voiced their objections. The party has consistently refused to consider raising revenue by any means other than through economic growth.
Baucus’s proposal would include as much as $500 billion in fresh savings from health programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other spending cuts that Republicans might be able to get behind, but he also urged the committee to approve Obama’s request for as much as $300 billion in new spending meant to stimulate the economy, an idea that Republicans have opposed.
The committee, which began meeting in September to discuss how to trim borrowing by at least $1.2 trillion through 2021, has until Thanksgiving to have a budget in place, otherwise automatic spending cuts that equal that amount will be triggered — cuts that would include a heavy blow to the Pentagon that Republicans would like to avoid. Baucus’s proposal marks the first either party has put numbers on paper in an effort to steer talks. However, Democratic aides have expressed little hope that a big deal is possible.