By Mike Lillis - 07/07/11 05:17 PM EDT
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was not informed in advance of President Obama’s plans to include Social Security reform in the scope of the debt-ceiling talks, a House Democratic aide said Thursday.
Reports that Obama is looking for a big debt deal that would include Social Security reforms provoked anger among liberals in the House and Senate, who said they were irritated to learn of the news from the press.
White House spokesman Jay Carney argued nothing has changed in the president's approach to the debt talks.
“There is no news here,” Carney said in a statement. “The president has always said that while Social Security is not a major driver of the deficit, we do need to strengthen the program.”
Carney also noted that Obama’s State of the Union address this year included vows "to work with both parties to do so in a balanced way that preserves the promise of the program and doesn't slash benefits.”
Carney was reacting to a report in The Washington Post that said Obama would press for Social Security reforms in the debt package during a White House meeting Thursday with congressional leaders.
“There seems to be some hunger to do something of some significance,” an anonymous Democratic official told The Post. “These moments come along, at most, once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us by.”
Top negotiators of a debt-limit bill had indicated last month that Social Security reform would follow a separate track.
After the story was published, a number of liberal House Democrats penned a letter to Obama warning that they'll oppose any debt-limit package that includes benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.
AARP also issued a similar statement, warning that they'll oppose any Social Security cuts “as part of a deal to pay the nation’s bills.”
Obama met secretly last weekend with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to discuss the debt talks, which could underline anxieties among some Democrats that Obama and the Speaker might work out a deal together.
However, House Democratic leaders are not worried about being left out, insisted aides, who said Pelosi is in constant contact with Obama.
Pelosi last month demanded that she have a seat at the table in talks on the debt ceiling, and legislation is likely to need significant support from Democrats to move through the House.
The former Speaker was among the bipartisan leaders from both chambers meeting with Obama at the White House Thursday morning. The Treasury Department has said the current $14.3 trillion debt limit leaves the government enough room to pay its obligations through Aug. 2.