Nancy Pelosi on raising Medicare eligibility age: 'Don't even think about' it

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday escalated her opposition to hiking Medicare's eligibility age, warning Republican leaders that it's a non-starter as part of the lame-duck fiscal talks.

"Don't even think about raising the Medicare age," she said during her weekly press briefing in the Capitol. "We are not throwing America's seniors over the cliff to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in America. We have clarity on that."

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned last month that, if Republicans are to support higher taxes as part of a fiscal-cliff deal, the Democrats will have to make significant sacrifices as well. He mentioned Social Security cuts and raising Medicare's eligibility age, currently set at 65, as "the kinds of things that would get Republicans interested in new revenue."

But Pelosi argued that Medicare and Social Security reforms have no place in the current fiscal talks. She said Congress should be focusing on the most pressing issues this month — particularly preventing the Bush tax rates from expiring on the middle class — and leave broader tax and entitlement reform for 2013.

"That should be left to next year," she said. "That's a longer conversation about where we go [on entitlements]."

President Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have spoken at least twice this week about how to break the impasse over legislation to prevent a slew of tax hikes and spending cuts from taking hold on Jan. 1.

But in a sign that those talks have led to little progress, Boehner on Thursday continued his attacks on Obama over spending cuts.

"It’s clear the president is just not serious about cutting spending," Boehner said during a press conference in the Capitol. "But spending is the problem.”

Pelosi on Thursday said Democrats are prepared to rein in spending, but it's the Republicans, she said — not Obama — who have been short on specific proposals.

"The Republicans sent a letter [to Obama], perhaps you saw it," she said. "It had a number in it, it had no specifics. ... It had more signatures than it had ideas."

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Pelosi said she and her troops are confident that Obama, who had indicated support last year for hiking Medicare's eligibility age, would not buckle to any GOP demands to cut entitlement benefits this time around.

"The president knows our views, shares our values, we respect his leadership and the Speaker may need our votes to go forward," she said, referring to the difficulty Boehner is expected to have rallying conservative Republicans behind a fiscal package that includes tax hikes. "So I'm confident about how the president is leading us."

Amid the talks, the House is set to recess Thursday afternoon for a long weekend — a schedule that drew the ire of Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, who are urging Boehner to keep lawmakers in Washington until a fiscal deal is hammered out.

"You have to ask the question: Why are we going home instead of working very hard to forge an agreement?" she asked. "How does this make sense?"