Senate Democrats on Friday told President Obama they don’t want to see cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid in his annual budget.
Sixteen senators wrote to the president as fears persist among liberals that Obama will once again offer some entitlement cuts in his budget, which is set to be released March 4.
In last April’s budget, Obama proposed changing the way the government calculates inflation. The change to the chained consumer price index (CPI) would have reduced retirement benefits as well as increasing some taxes.
Obama also proposed increasing means testing for outpatient and drug benefits under Medicare.
In total, the budget had $1 trillion in spending cuts the administration touted as a sign of Obama’s seriousness on the deficit.
The Senate Democrats are warning that cuts to Social Security do not jive with the president’s focus on income inequality. The issue of entitlement spending is a highly charged one this election year, and many Democrats are trying to paint themselves as the party with compassion.
“Mr. President: These are tough times for our country. With the middle class struggling and more people living in poverty than ever before, we urge you not to propose cuts in your budget to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits – cuts which would make life even more difficult for some of the most vulnerable people in America,” the senators said.
The letter to Obama was organized by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Obama presidency that never was Trump education pick to face Warren, Sanders Sanders, Dems defend ObamaCare at Michigan rally MORE (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats, and includes embattled Sen. 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 (D-Alaska) as a signatory.
“Social Security has not contributed one penny to the deficit,,” the letter goes on to state. “We are also opposed to shifting the cost of healthcare onto senior citizens, the poor, and the disabled by cutting Medicare and Medicaid benefits.”
The other signatories to the letter are: Democratic Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: Mattis cruises through confirmation hearing Mattis cruises through confirmation hearing Senate teeing up Mattis waiver MORE (N.Y.), Mazie HironoMazie HironoLawmakers condemn Trump for attack on John Lewis LGBT groups 'heartened' by Mattis' testimony Mattis cruises through confirmation hearing MORE (Hawaii), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDems prepare to face off with Trump's pick to lead EPA Dem: EPA pick should answer questions before hearing Sessions: 'I have done no research into' Russian hacking MORE (R.I.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Jack ReedJack ReedSenate panel easily approves waiver for Mattis Live coverage: Mattis confirmation hearing for Pentagon Democrats are playing with fire on Russia MORE (R.I.), 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), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenEthics chief thrust into spotlight by Trump battle Warren blasts Trump for John Lewis criticism Trump education pick to face Warren, Sanders MORE (Mass.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyJustice, FBI to be investigated over Clinton probes Sessions: Grabbing a woman's genitals without consent is sexual assault Live coverage of Sessions confirmation hearing MORE (Vt.), Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyWHIP LIST: How many Dems will back Sessions? Confirm Inga Bernstein for the District of Massachusetts FCC takes aim at AT&T, Verizon over 'zero-rating' services MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate easily approves waiver for Trump's Pentagon chief Dem senator: 'Very good chance’ we save ObamaCare Live coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State MORE (Ore.), Al FrankenAl FrankenWHIP LIST: How many Dems will back Sessions? Franken to oppose Sessions FCC takes aim at AT&T, Verizon over 'zero-rating' services MORE (Minn.), Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinTrump, House GOP could clash over 'Buy America' WHIP LIST: How many Dems will back Sessions? Trump’s infrastructure plan: What we know MORE (Wis.), Barbara BoxerBarbara Boxer Becerra formally nominated for Calif. attorney general 10 freshmen to watch in the new Congress Top 15 Democratic presidential candidates in 2020 MORE (Calif.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalTakata will plead guilty, pay B in faulty airbag probe Corrected — Lawmakers: Trump can't stop investigation of Clinton email case Overnight Defense: Mattis cruises through confirmation hearing MORE (Conn.).
Sanders said in an interview that, given the fact the annual budget deficit has been cut in half, Obama's focus has to shift to helping the middle class and poor.
"The focus of attention right now has got to be on the collapsing middle class," Sanders said. "What we need from the president now is a reassurance that he is not going to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."
On Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked at the daily briefing whether chained CPI will be in the budget, and he declined to say.
"What I can tell you is the president has demonstrated in the past and continues — and will continue to demonstrate his commitment to achieving additional deficit reduction that addresses our medium- and long-term challenges through a balanced approach," he said.