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 SandersAssange: 'Unexpected' Clinton campaign leaks coming Progressive groups urge Clinton to lead fight against a TPP vote Sanders launches nonprofit to carry on campaign's goals MORE (I-Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats, and includes embattled Sen. 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 (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 GillibrandMoving beyond minimal: Fighting for paid family and medical leave McAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense MORE (N.Y.), Mazie HironoMazie HironoDem senator's name misspelled on convention screen Overnight 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 MORE (Hawaii), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDem senator: Clinton may command 'majority of the Republican caucus' Banking association backs financial transparency bill Shift in care could reverse the opioid epidemic 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 WarrenProgressive groups urge Clinton to lead fight against a TPP vote Amazon hires antitrust lobbyist Jill Stein helps Trump as Ralph Nader helped Bush MORE (Mass.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahySanders, liberals press Obama to expand closure of private prisons Police union: Clinton snubbed us Congress saving the past for the future MORE (Vt.), Edward MarkeyEd MarkeyDem senator criticizes Facebook, Instagram for gun sales Apple, Google enlisted for FCC robocall effort Airlines brace for boost in travel volumes over Labor Day MORE (Mass.), Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDem anxiety hangs over Clinton Kaine as Clinton's VP pick sells out progressive wing of party Unions want one thing from Hillary tonight: A stake in TPP’s heart MORE (Ore.), Al FrankenAl FrankenLiberal hypocrisy on the free exchange of ideas Winners and losers of the Dem convention Party unity overcomes chaos...and the Bernie-or-Bust crowd MORE (Minn.), Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinCommunity development can help close the opportunity divide Overnight Healthcare: Major insurer expands ObamaCare presence | Charges dropped for Planned Parenthood videomakers FDA explores changes to blood donation for gay men MORE (Wis.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerFeds weigh whether carbon pollution should be measured in highway performance Juan Williams: Dems should not take Latinos for granted Reid faces Sanders supporters' fury at DNC MORE (Calif.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalDem senator's daughter could face Congress over EpiPen price hike Airlines brace for boost in travel volumes over Labor Day Will Obama protect the Atlantic’s Grand Canyons? 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.