By Erik Wasson - 02/14/14 01:11 PM EST
Senate Dems warn Obama on Social Security, Medicare cuts
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 SandersKaine showcases faith and family in VP debut Clinton unveils Kaine: He's everything Trump and Pence aren't Sunday shows preview: Focus shifts to Dem convention MORE (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats, and includes embattled Sen. Mark BegichMark BegichSenate GOP deeply concerned over Trump effect Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium 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 GillibrandTexas rep uses Snapchat to prompt border control discussions GOP probes EPA response to NY state water contamination Dems separated by 29 votes in NY House primary MORE (N.Y.), Mazie HironoMazie HironoOvernight Finance: Senate sends Puerto Rico bill to Obama | Treasury, lawmakers to meet on tax rules | Obama hits Trump on NAFTA | Fed approves most banks' capital plans Senate Dems pledge to keep fighting over Zika Senators to Obama: Investigate whether Pentagon misled Congress MORE (Hawaii), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseWhy Kaine is the right choice for Clinton Report: More, stronger cyber attacks to flood networks Senate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency MORE (R.I.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Jack ReedJack ReedDems to GOP: Admit Trump is 'unfit' to be president Armed Services leaders encouraged after first conference meeting US urges China to be calm in wake of South China Sea ruling 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 WarrenWarren hammers Trump at Latino event Trump tries to stoke liberal anger at Kaine pick Clinton VP pick could face liberal ire MORE (Mass.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyNBA pulls All-Star Game from NC over bathroom law When America denies citizenship to servicemembers Criminal sentencing bill tests McConnell-Grassley relationship MORE (Vt.), Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyFCC chief pushes phone companies to offer free robocall blocking Markey floats bill bringing internet to developing world Overnight Tech: First on The Hill – Key senators team up against robocalls | Social media giants back revenge porn bill | Facebook's diversity numbers MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyClinton VP pick could face liberal ire NBA pulls All-Star Game from NC over bathroom law Liberals press Clinton not to pick Kaine for VP MORE (Ore.), Al FrankenAl FrankenWhy Kaine is the right choice for Clinton Liberals press Clinton not to pick Kaine for VP Franken: Convention 'ugliest' I've seen MORE (Minn.), Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinNBA pulls All-Star Game from NC over bathroom law Mike Pence out-of-touch with New Midwest Senate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency MORE (Wis.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerDem suggests race factored into Obama Senate endorsement Obama, Biden back Kamala Harris in Calif. Senate race Tim Scott says he was targeted by Capitol Police MORE (Calif.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalSenate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency Congress sends first major opioid bill to Obama's desk Opioid package clears key Senate hurdle 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.