Sixty-four senators call on Obama to take up tax and entitlement reform

Sixty-four senators call on Obama to take up tax and entitlement reform

President Obama came under new pressure Friday to broaden talks about government spending to include tax and entitlement reform.

Sixty-four senators — 32 Democrats and 32 Republicans — called for the expanded talks in a letter to Obama.

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The letter was circulated by Sens. Mike JohannsMike JohannsTo buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington Republican senator vows to block nominees over ObamaCare co-ops Revisiting insurance regulatory reform in a post-crisis world MORE (R-Neb.) and Michael BennetMichael BennetA guide to the committees: Senate Senate advances Trump's Commerce pick Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order MORE (D-Colo.), who were able to get a supermajority of the Senate within 24 hours. It urges Obama to "engage in a broader discussion about a comprehensive deficit-reduction package." 

"Specifically, we hope that the discussion will include discretionary spending cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform," the letter states.

It endorses the report late last year from Obama's fiscal commission as a basis for the conversation.

"As you know, a bipartisan group of senators has been working to craft a comprehensive deficit reduction package based upon the recommendations of the Fiscal Commission," the letter states. "While we may not agree with every aspect of the Commission’s recommendations, we believe that its work represents an important foundation to achieve meaningful progress on our debt." 

The letter does not specify what entitlements and tax reforms should be included in the talks.

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“We need the White House to be engaged,” Johanns said in a press call explaining the letter. “There is no question that tackling tax reform and entitlements is tough. … We won’t have any chance unless the president joins with us in the good-faith effort.

“The ball is very clearly in the president’s court,” Johanns said.

“We want to work toward a comprehensive plan,” Bennet said. “This is about keeping the conversations going, keeping it alive.”

The White House said Obama head already made moves to deal with entitlements and tax reform, including in this year's State of the Union address, and that the president welcomed the input from Congress.


"We believe it’s a positive development anytime Democrats and Republicans come together to work on one of our nation’s toughest challenges, and we will continue to work with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to rein in our deficit, grow our economy, and win the future," White House spokesperson Amy Brundage said. 

“The President agrees that any serious discussion of how to tackle our long-term fiscal situation needs to include entitlements and tax reform, which is why he committed to take on both in his State of the Union Address," she said.

Brundage also said the president's budget included "down payments" on tax and entitlement reform, including proposals to limit tax breaks for wealthier taxpayers and to fix an ongoing problem related to the payments doctors receive under Medicare, and that Obama had moved forward on recommendations from the debt panel to reform the nation's medical malpractice system and to institute a pay freeze for federal workers.

Discussions in Washington on spending have focused on the current fiscal year, with Democrats and Republicans battling over about $50 billion in domestic discretionary spending. 


Separately, six senators from both parties have been working to put the bipartisan recommendations of Obama's fiscal commission into legislation. The debt commission included tax and entitlement reforms in its recommendations. 

The group — Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDems rip Trump administration for revoking Obama's transgender directive A guide to the committees: Senate McConnell: I’m very sympathetic to 'Dreamers' MORE (D-Ill.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Tom CoburnTom CoburnCoburn: Trump's tweets aren't presidential The road ahead for America’s highways Rethinking taxation MORE (R-Okla.), Mike CrapoMike CrapoA guide to the committees: Senate Time for the feds to deregulate gun suppressors Senate votes to repeal transparency rule for oil companies MORE (R-Idaho), Mark WarnerMark WarnerDems worry too much about upsetting others. That needs to stop. Washington-area lawmakers request GAO report on DC Metro Trump's pick for intel chief to get hearing next week MORE (D-Va.) and Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust MORE (R-Ga.) — met again Thursday night to continue their negotiations. The Republicans in the group are under heavy pressure from outside groups not to endorse reforms that increase taxes, while the Democrats are being lobbied not to include Social Security reform. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSanders and Schumer are right: Ellison for DNC chair The Hill's 12:30 Report Hopes rise for law to expand access to experimental drugs MORE (D-Nev.) said this week he would be open to tackling Social Security in 20 years, a statement that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanLeaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood House markup of ObamaCare repeal bill up in the air Trump: House GOP's plan for border tax could create more jobs MORE (R-Wis.) described as mind-boggling.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerHouse markup of ObamaCare repeal bill up in the air Conservatives to Congress: Get moving Boehner: ObamaCare repeal and replace 'not going to happen' MORE (R-Ohio) has offered to give the president political cover if he takes up entitlement reform. Obama did not include comprehensive entitlement reforms in his budget proposal for the next fiscal year. 

Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThough flawed, complex Medicaid block grants have fighting chance Sanders: 'If you don't have the guts to face your constituents,' you shouldn't be in Congress McConnell: Trump's speech should be 'tweet free' MORE (R-Ky.) did not sign the letter and were not asked to, according to Johanns, who said this was in keeping with Senate tradition.

Durbin, the majority whip, has signed the letter, as has Senate Minority Conference Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderGOP governors confront Medicaid divide A guide to the committees: Senate Overnight Healthcare: Trump officials weigh fate of birth control mandate | House, DOJ seek delay in ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (R-Tenn.). On the other hand, Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsPelosi calls for DOJ probe of Priebus on FBI, Russia Roger Stone: Marijuana crackdown would be 'huge mistake' Ex-Education head: Trump transgender rollback ‘thoughtless, cruel’ MORE (R-Ala.) is not on the letter.

Johanns said this is the best year to tackle a comprehensive plan since next year is an election year. Bennet said that simply talking about 2011 funding is not sufficient.

Here is the full text of the letter to Obama, followed by the names of the senators signing the letter:

Dear President Obama:

As the Administration continues to work with Congressional leadership regarding our current budget situation, we write to inform you that we believe comprehensive deficit reduction measures are imperative and to ask you to support a broad approach to solving the problem.

As you know, a bipartisan group of Senators has been working to craft a comprehensive deficit reduction package based upon the recommendations of the Fiscal Commission.  While we may not agree with every aspect of the Commission’s recommendations, we believe that its work represents an important foundation to achieve meaningful progress on our debt.  The Commission’s work also underscored the scope and breadth of our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges.  

Beyond FY2011 funding decisions, we urge you to engage in a broader discussion about a comprehensive deficit reduction package.  Specifically, we hope that the discussion will include discretionary spending cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform. 

By approaching these negotiations comprehensively, with a strong signal of support from you, we believe that we can achieve consensus on these important fiscal issues.  This would send a powerful message to Americans that Washington can work together to tackle this critical issue.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. 

Republicans signing the letter:

Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteLewandowski saw no evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire NH governor 'not aware’ of major voter fraud Former NH AG: 'Allegations of voter fraud in NH are baseless' MORE (N.H.), John BarrassoJohn BarrassoBig Pharma must address high drug prices A guide to the committees: Senate Making transportation public-private partnerships available in rural America MORE (Wyo.), Roy BluntRoy BluntA guide to the committees: Senate Judiciary Committee wants briefing, documents on Flynn resignation Intel Dem: House GOP now open to investigating Flynn MORE (Mo.), John BoozmanJohn BoozmanA guide to the committees: Senate GOP considers ways to ‘modernize’ endangered species law GOP senators unveil bill to give Congress control of consumer bureau budget MORE (Ark.), Scott Brown (Mass.), Richard BurrRichard BurrTrump's pick for intel chief to get hearing next week A guide to the committees: Senate Juan Williams: Senate GOP begins to push Trump away MORE (N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Dan CoatsDan CoatsDNI official challenges reports of low morale in intelligence community Trust the states — we'll deliver on healthcare Trump's pick for intel chief to get hearing next week MORE (Ind.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Thad CochranThad CochranA guide to the committees: Senate Mulvaney sworn in as White House budget chief Senate confirms Mulvaney to be Trump’s budget chief MORE (R-Miss.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerA guide to the committees: Senate Republicans play clean up on Trump's foreign policy GOP Congress unnerved by Trump bumps MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn CornynCornyn: Border wall 'makes absolutely no sense' in some areas Ryan on border: ‘We will get this done’ Ryan tours Mexican border on horseback MORE (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Mike EnziMike EnziA guide to the committees: Senate GOP senators unveil bill to give Congress control of consumer bureau budget Grizzlies, guns, and games of gotcha: How the left whiffed on Betsy DeVos MORE (Wyo.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report Back to the future: Congress should look to past for Fintech going forward CNN to host town hall featuring John McCain, Lindsey Graham MORE (S.C.) John HoevenJohn HoevenA guide to the committees: Senate GOP senators unveil bill to give Congress control of consumer bureau budget Dem senator: DeVos bigger threat to education than grizzlies MORE (N.D.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Jim InhofeJames InhofeA guide to the committees: Senate GOP considers ways to ‘modernize’ endangered species law GOP bill would eliminate Consumer Financial Protection Bureau MORE (Okla.), Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonA guide to the committees: Senate GOP rep on Trump: 'God has used imperfect people to do great things before' GOP senators unveil bill to give Congress control of consumer bureau budget MORE (Ga.), Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonA guide to the committees: Senate Hopes rise for law to expand access to experimental drugs Dems ask for hearings on Russian attempts to attack election infrastructure MORE (Wis.), Mark KirkMark KirkLeaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood GOP senator won't vote to defund Planned Parenthood The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Ill.), Mike LeeMike LeeLessons from the godfather of regulatory budgeting Congress must reform civil asset forfeiture laws A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranJerry MoranYahoo reveals new details about security A guide to the committees: Senate Verizon, Yahoo slash merger deal by 0M over data breaches MORE (Kan.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiGOP governors confront Medicaid divide GOP senator won't vote to defund Planned Parenthood A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (Alaska), Rob PortmanRob PortmanConquering Trump returns to conservative summit ­ObamaCare fix hinges on Medicaid clash in Senate A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (Ohio), James Risch (Idaho), Pat RobertsPat RobertsThe buzzword everyone can agree on in the health debate: RESTORE A guide to the committees: Senate Angst in GOP over Trump's trade agenda MORE (Kan.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), John ThuneJohn ThuneYahoo reveals new details about security Conquering Trump returns to conservative summit Low-income consumer broadband credits mean competitiveness, choice and compassion MORE (S.D.) and Roger WickerRoger WickerA guide to the committees: Senate Pruitt confirmation sets stage for Trump EPA assault Price huddles with Senate GOP on ObamaCare MORE (Miss.).

Members of the Democratic Caucus who signed the letter:

John KerryJohn KerryNew York Knicks owner gave 0K to pro-Trump group A bold, common sense UN move for the Trump administration Former Obama officials say Netanyahu turned down secret peace deal: AP MORE (Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenators ask feds for ‘full account’ of work to secure election from cyber threats Sanders, not Trump, is the real working-class hero A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (Minn.), Ron WydenRon WydenMnuchin aiming for tax reform by August Dems rip Trump administration for revoking Obama's transgender directive IPAB’s Medicare cuts will threaten seniors’ access to care MORE (Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenDem senator asks for 'top to bottom' review of Syria policy A guide to the committees: Senate Mattis on rise in Trump administration MORE (N.H.), Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (N.C.), Mark BegichMark BegichThe future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map Trump campaign left out of Alaska voter guide MORE (Alaska), Thomas Carper (Del.), Mark UdallMark UdallElection autopsy: Latinos favored Clinton more than exit polls showed Live coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State The rise and possible fall of the ‘Card’ in politics MORE (Colo.), Mark PryorMark PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (Ark.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinA guide to the committees: Senate Dem: Trump's China trademark looks like a quid pro quo Senate advances Trump's Commerce pick MORE (Caif.), Jon TesterJon TesterPoll: Senate should confirm Gorsuch A guide to the committees: Senate GOP loses top Senate contenders MORE (Mont.), Christopher CoonsChris CoonsSenate advances Trump's Commerce pick Senate Dems move to nix Trump's deportation order Senate Dem: Trump will hurt Gorsuch's confirmation by undermining judiciary MORE (Del.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillThe DNC in the age of Trump: 5 things the new chairman needs to do A guide to the committees: Senate Juan Williams: Senate GOP begins to push Trump away MORE (Mo.), Bill NelsonBill NelsonA guide to the committees: Senate Senate advances Trump's Commerce pick CMS nominee breezes through confirmation hearing MORE (Fla.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinGreens launch ads against two GOP senators for Pruitt votes Poll: Senate should confirm Gorsuch A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (W.Va.), Ben CardinBen CardinDem senator: Don't let leaks distract from real issue of Russian interference Washington-area lawmakers request GAO report on DC Metro Warren wants briefing on probe into Trump ally MORE (Md.), Al FrankenAl FrankenDeVos: 'My job isn’t to win a popularity contest with the media' Kentucky Dem lawmaker questions Trump's mental health Americans should get used to pop culture blending with politics MORE (Minn.), Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race MORE (La.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Mark Warner (Va.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE (Iowa), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Patty MurrayPatty MurrayA guide to the committees: Senate Overnight Healthcare: Trump officials weigh fate of birth control mandate | House, DOJ seek delay in ObamaCare lawsuit Top lawmakers from both parties: 'Vaccines save lives' MORE (Wash.), Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowA guide to the committees: Senate Trump's pick to lead Medicare won't say if she supports negotiating prices with drug companies Overnight Finance: Fed chief tries to stay above partisan fray | Bill would eliminate consumer agency | Trump signs repeal of SEC rule on foreign payments MORE (Mich.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalPoll: Senate should confirm Gorsuch A guide to the committees: Senate Senate Dems ask DHS inspector general for probe of Trump’s business arrangement MORE (Conn.), Tom UdallTom UdallA guide to the committees: Senate Senate Dems ask DHS inspector general for probe of Trump’s business arrangement Dem senators call for independent Flynn probe MORE (N.M.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownSanders, not Trump, is the real working-class hero A guide to the committees: Senate House bill would prevent Trump from lifting Russian sanctions MORE (Ohio).

This story was posted at 9:56 a.m. and last updated at 12 p.m.