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 BennetEconomists have a message: Clinton's policies are wrong for America Senate rivals gear up for debates Grassley pulling away from Dem challenger 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 DurbinRetailers have jumped the shark Dems gain upper hand on budget McConnell: Senate could drop flood money from spending bill MORE (D-Ill.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Tom CoburnTom CoburnRyan calls out GOP in anti-poverty fight The Trail 2016: Words matter Ex-Sen. Coburn: I won’t challenge Trump, I’ll vote for him MORE (R-Okla.), Mike CrapoMike CrapoLawmakers play catch-up as smartphone banking surges Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners Bank lobbyists counting down to Shelby’s exit MORE (R-Idaho), Mark WarnerMark WarnerDemocrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal Democratic tax bill targets foreign reinsurance transactions Leahy wants Judiciary hearing on Yahoo 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 ReidThe missed opportunity of JASTA States urged to bolster election security How the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill 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 RyanGOP lawmakers slam secret agreement to help lift Iran bank sanctions 9/11 bill is a global blunder that will weaken US efforts abroad Dear Speaker Ryan: your 'forward-looking agenda' ignores climate change MORE (R-Wis.) described as mind-boggling.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Boehner3 ways the next president can succeed on immigration reform Republican Study Committee elders back Harris for chairman Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare 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 McConnell9/11 bill is a global blunder that will weaken US efforts abroad States urged to bolster election security How the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill 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 AlexanderMcConnell: Cures bill a 'top priority' in lame-duck Lawmakers pledge push for cures bill in lame-duck Overnight Regulation: Lawsuits pile up against Obama overtime rule MORE (R-Tenn.). On the other hand, Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff SessionsJeff Sessions3 ways the next president can succeed on immigration reform Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears Trump, Clinton discuss counterterrorism with Egyptian president 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 AyotteGOP senator: Block cash payments to state terror sponsors The Trail 2016: Just a little kick Abortion rights group ads tie vulnerable GOP senators to Trump MORE (N.H.), John BarrassoJohn BarrassoSenators express 'grave concerns' about ObamaCare 'bailout' GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Tribes open new front in fight over pipelines MORE (Wyo.), Roy BluntRoy BluntDem groups target Blunt with .3 million ad campaign The Trail 2016: Just a little kick Senate rivals gear up for debates MORE (Mo.), John BoozmanJohn BoozmanGOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase GOP to Obama: Sanction Chinese entities to get to North Korea Overnight Defense: White House threatens to veto Gitmo bill MORE (Ark.), Scott Brown (Mass.), Richard BurrRichard BurrDem groups invest big in Bayh in Ind. Senate race The Trail 2016: Fight night Poll finds races for president, Senate tight in North Carolina MORE (N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Dan CoatsDan CoatsDem groups invest big in Bayh in Ind. Senate race Indiana Senate race tightens as Republicans take on Bayh Conservative group targets Evan Bayh on ObamaCare MORE (Ind.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Thad CochranThad CochranMomentum builds for Clyburn poverty plan 'Hardball' Pentagon memo creates firestorm Insiders dominate year of the outsider MORE (R-Miss.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerOvernight Defense: GOP leaders express concerns after 9/11 veto override | Lawmakers press for Syria 'plan B' | US touts anti-ISIS airstrikes Dem leaders defend overriding 9/11 bill veto GOP leaders express reservations a day after 9/11 veto override MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn CornynHow the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill GOP leaders express reservations a day after 9/11 veto override McConnell opens door to changing 9/11 bill MORE (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Mike EnziMike EnziOvernight Energy: Obama integrates climate change into national security planning Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (Wyo.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamKerry: US 'on the verge' of suspending talks with Russia on Syria GOP leaders express reservations a day after 9/11 veto override McConnell opens door to changing 9/11 bill MORE (S.C.) John HoevenJohn HoevenOvernight Defense: White House threatens to veto Gitmo bill GOP senators fight female draft in defense bill Majority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention MORE (N.D.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Jim InhofeJames InhofeFunding bill rejected as shutdown nears Senate Dems: Add Flint aid to spending deal Shutdown risk grows over Flint MORE (Okla.), Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonGrassley pulling away from Dem challenger Fifteen years since pivotal executive order, STORM Act could help fight terror finance GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (Ga.), Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Grassley accuses Reid of 'pure unfiltered partisanship' California to allow experimental drug treatments for the terminally ill MORE (Wis.), Mark KirkMark KirkFormer Miss Universe becomes surprise story to emerge from debate Senate rivals gear up for debates The Trail 2016: Trump seizes on Charlotte violence MORE (Ill.), Mike LeeMike LeeICANN is already under foreign government influence: the proof is in the pudding Senators express 'grave concerns' about ObamaCare 'bailout' Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranJerry MoranOvernight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform GOP senators press Treasury to withdraw estate tax proposal Senate panel advances ticket bots crackdown MORE (Kan.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Obama integrates climate change into national security planning GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Overnight Energy: Lawmakers kick off energy bill talks MORE (Alaska), Rob PortmanRob PortmanOvernight Healthcare: Watchdog says ObamaCare program made illegal payments Portman ad features father of fallen Iraq soldier Election-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables MORE (Ohio), James Risch (Idaho), Pat RobertsPat RobertsGOP senators ask watchdog to examine Gitmo site surveys spending Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners Congress set for Saudi showdown with Obama MORE (Kan.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), John ThuneJohn ThuneTech groups file court brief opposing internet transition suit Thune blasts FCC chairman on secrecy Overnight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform MORE (S.D.) and Roger WickerRoger WickerTo protect taxpayers, the Hyde Amendment must be permanent GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase GOP to Obama: Sanction Chinese entities to get to North Korea MORE (Miss.).

Members of the Democratic Caucus who signed the letter:

John KerryJohn KerryUN to investigate Syria aid convoy bombing WATCH: Impatient Obama waits for Bill Clinton to board Air Force One Russian air strikes in Syria have killed 9K, group says MORE (Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharOvernight Defense: US attempted hostage rescue in Afghanistan | Defense hawks brace for spending fight | Trump slams 'lies' about Iraq war stance Senators want military separation policy to address trauma-related behavior Senate Dems reignite fight for hearing on SCOTUS nominee MORE (Minn.), Ron WydenRon WydenOvernight Healthcare: Watchdog says ObamaCare program made illegal payments Election-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Overnight Tech: TV box plan faces crucial vote | Trump transition team to meet tech groups | Growing scrutiny of Yahoo security MORE (Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenSenators press State Department on 'plan B' in Syria Senate passes bill to preserve sexual assault kits Dems call for better birth control access for female troops MORE (N.H.), Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), Kay HaganKay HaganPhoto finish predicted for Trump, Clinton in North Carolina Are Senate Republicans facing an election wipeout? Clinton's lead in NC elevates Senate race MORE (N.C.), Mark BegichMark BegichRyan's victory trumps justice reform opponents There is great responsibility being in the minority Senate GOP deeply concerned over Trump effect MORE (Alaska), Thomas Carper (Del.), Mark UdallMark UdallColorado GOP Senate race to unseat Dem incumbent is wide open Energy issues roil race for Senate Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium 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 FeinsteinElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override WH tried to stop Intel Dems' statement on Russian hacking: report MORE (Caif.), Jon TesterJon TesterElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks MORE (Mont.), Christopher CoonsChris CoonsElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Overnight Healthcare: McConnell unveils new Zika package | Manchin defends daughter on EpiPens | Bill includes M for opioid crisis Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare MORE (Del.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillClinton campaign chair jabs at Trump's age Election-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables The Trail 2016: Miss Universe crashes campaign MORE (Mo.), Bill NelsonBill NelsonElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks Overnight Energy: Judges scrutinize Obama climate rule MORE (Fla.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Mylan CEO should be ashamed of EpiPen prices Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks MORE (W.Va.), Ben CardinBen CardinHow the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill Senate Democrat calls on Mexico to step up search for missing students Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override MORE (Md.), Al FrankenAl FrankenAnti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP Overnight Tech: TV box plan faces crucial vote | Trump transition team to meet tech groups | Growing scrutiny of Yahoo security Overnight Regulation: Supporters push for TV box reforms ahead of vote MORE (Minn.), Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuLouisiana needs Caroline Fayard as its new senator La. Senate contender books seven-figure ad buy Crowded field muddies polling 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 MurrayElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Congress approves .1B in Zika funds Lawmakers pledge push for cures bill in lame-duck MORE (Wash.), Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowMichigan Dems highlight Flint with unanimous opposition to CR How Congress averted shutdown Senate passes funding bill to avoid shutdown MORE (Mich.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalOvernight Tech: FCC chief downplays delay to TV box reforms | Lawsuit filed over internet transition | Waze rolls out ridehailing service Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP Leahy wants Judiciary hearing on Yahoo MORE (Conn.), Tom UdallTom UdallTensions rise over judicial nominees Dem senator wants to change nomination rules amid Garland fight Dem senators back Navajo lawsuit against EPA MORE (N.M.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownOvernight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal MORE (Ohio).

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