By Alexander Bolton - 07/07/11 03:42 PM EDT
Senate Democrats reacted angrily Thursday to a report that President Obama has proposed significant cuts to Medicare and Social Security in closed-door talks with GOP leaders.
Democratic lawmakers said they were dismayed to read about Obama’s offer in the press rather than hearing it from the president himself. Their frustration is exacerbated by Obama’s snub of their invitation to speak to the Senate Democratic caucus Wednesday.
“We would have preferred to hear it from the president instead of from the press,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.), a senior member of the Senate Democratic conference. “We first have to go after tax earmarks.”
Mikulski said cuts to Medicare and Social Security should be a solution of last resort. She said closing tax loopholes and pulling back from Libya should be considered before entitlement cuts.
She said Obama should not assume Democratic support for a deficit reduction plan that cuts entitlements.
“I think good politics starts with good communication, and I think they should have come and talk to us about the direction, particularly when it’s the social contract we feel so strongly about,” she said.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said, “Social Security money should not be diverted to solving other problems.”
Conrad has long argued that Social Security reform should be kept separate from a deficit-reduction package.
But Conrad said he would consider reforms to reduce Social Security costs as long as the savings were dedicated to extending the solvency of the program.
“We just don’t know from press reports, they’ve been too abbreviated to know how it’s been handled in these discussions,” Conrad said.