Hoyer lays out debt principles

Hoyer also said healthcare costs have to be reined in, in order to make Medicare and Medicaid sustainable. He said the new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation put in place by the Obama healthcare law will help address that. 

President Obama has also said Medicare costs need to be put on the table.

Hoyer said other proposals for reforming Medicare should be examined, but he attacked the House-passed budget for increasing costs and ending the guaranteed benefits program.

Hoyer said that the author of the House-passed budget, Rep. Paul Ryan (D-Wis.), has been “courageous” for pushing for a balanced budget. “Raising an objective of balancing the budget in reasonable time is clearly the direction we need to go,” he said.

Hoyer said in addition to entitlement reform, the solution should also include tax code simplification that lowers rates and uses some revenue to reduce the deficit.

Third, he said, discretionary spending — including defense spending — needs to be cut.

Fourth, a debt failsafe mechanism that forces spending cuts and tax increases should be put in place, Hoyer said.

Finally, he said the proposal should be guided by “fairness” so that the pain is spread around.

Hoyer said that based on his private conversations with House and Senate Republican leaders he is hopeful of striking a deal this year and that this deal will included revenue increases.

He said that he also hopes Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) rejoins the Gang of Six and that he has encouraged Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) to continue trying to find a bipartisan solution.

After Hoyer’s speech, former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), who works at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said he thought Democrats need to seriously put Medicare on the table for a deal to be had.

He also said that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has fumbled communications about debt ceiling. He said Geithner has only increased doubts in the GOP about the need to raise the debt ceiling by changing the dates as to when the ceiling needs to be raised, from July to Aug. 2.

Domenici called on Geithner to set a hard and fast date and give the information used to set that date to Republicans so they can see for themselves that beyond the date, more spending will not be possible.

He also said Hoyer had been unfair in trying to pin more blame for the deficit on Republican policies, such as the Bush-era tax cuts. He said he believes Obama has decided to save a big campaign on debt reduction until after the 2012 elections.