Boehner: Obama budget holds reforms to entitlements 'hostage'

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Friday that President Obama was holding needed entitlement reforms "hostage" after the White House said that its budget, to be released next week, will propose cuts to Social Security and other programs.

ADVERTISEMENT
"If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes," Boehner said in a statement. "That’s no way to lead and move the country forward."

Boehner's statement served as a rejection of Obama's call for Congress to agree to a combination of tax hikes and entitlement reforms.

Senior administration officials confirmed Friday that the president's budget would embrace "chained CPI," which would reduce the rate at which federal benefits and Social Security payments increased to for inflation. Obama's plan would also reduce spending on Medicare through lower payments to healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama's approach represents a "middle of the road" outlook that would help reduce the deficit.

He said the proposals are "not the president's ideal approach" but cast them as a "serious compromise proposition" that shows Obama "wants to get things done."

"It's not what he would do if he were king," Carney said.

But the White House said the president is only willing to agree to the entailment cuts if Republicans agree to tax increases on the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

Boehner said Friday that Obama should not "make savings we agree upon conditional on another round of tax increases."

"At some point we need to solve our spending problem, and what the president has offered would leave us with a budget that never balances," Boehner said. "In reality, he’s moved in the wrong direction, routinely taking off the table entitlement reforms he’s previously told me he could support."

At his own press briefing, Carney criticized the House Republican budget for its proposals to change Medicare, arguing it was "the wrong approach" and was "soundly rejected by the American people during the last election."

Aides to Boehner emphasized that the president's chained CPI proposal would affect not just benefit increases, but also the way tax brackets are adjusted annually. They pointed to an Associated Press analysis that found that while the inflation adjustment would reduce federal spending by about $130 billion over the next decade, the change in how tax brackets were calculated would generate $100 billion in higher taxes.

"It’s not just a concession on spending," said Boehner aide Brendan Buck. "In fact, the way the administration proposes doing it, its nearly equal parts [tax] revenue and spending cuts."

This story was posted at 11:20 a.m. and updated at 2:11 p.m.