Progressive groups: Don't forget poor in deficit talks

“Cuts to programs that help low-income people meet their basic needs or provide them with opportunity to obtain decent education and employment would inevitably increase poverty and hardship,” they added.

The groups’ letter comes as discussions over a potential deal to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling are getting bumped up a level, with Obama set to meet on Monday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

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The president is becoming more involved in the bargaining over a deficit deal after the Republican representatives at discussions led by Vice President Biden bowed out last week.

Prior to his scheduled Monday meeting, McConnell reiterated some of the GOP's demands for any deal, including spending cuts, a cap on future spending and not increasing taxes.

For its part, the Obama administration has discussed a debt trigger that would employ across-the-board spending cuts and reductions in tax credits and deductions if debt benchmarks were not reached. 

In their letter, the liberal groups pointed out that deals going back to the 1980s — including those hashed out under the watch of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton — excepted low-income assistance programs from any system implementing across-the-board cuts.

“In fact, all deficit reduction packages enacted in the 1990s reduced poverty and helped the disadvantaged even as they shrank deficits,” the officials wrote.