By Erik Wasson - 02/19/14 02:49 PM EST
Schwartz leads House letter to Obama against Social Security cuts
Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and 116 other House Democrats on Wednesday sent President Obama a letter urging him to drop cuts to Social Security and veterans benefits from his budget due out March 4.
They told Obama he should abandon efforts to cut a fiscal deal with the GOP because the party is not willing to raise taxes.
“Your Budget for Fiscal Year 2014 proposed a comprehensive $1.8 trillion deficit reduction package that sought to replace sequestration and reflected the compromise you offered to House Speaker John Boehner in December 2012 ... Since then, however, the Republican majority has consistently refused to discuss a balanced approach that would include increased revenues and the closing of tax loopholes,” they wrote.
The missive is the latest salvo in the battle over the cuts, which pose a dilemma for the president.
Obama included a new measure of inflation in last April’s budget as an olive branch to the GOP. The "chained" consumer price index would reduce yearly cost-of-living increases for seniors.
Liberals want Obama to backtrack on the cuts, but doing so could hurt his credibility and give Republicans ammunition to say he is not serious about the deficit.
Schwartz, the lead author on the letter from House Democrats, has been working to bolster her liberal credentials as she runs for governor of Pennsylvania.
“Social Security doesn’t drive the federal deficit and the Pennsylvania seniors who depend on it must not be used as bargaining chips to fix our nation’s fiscal problems. Social Security must be strengthened, not weakened. Shifting to chained CPI will make it harder for Pennsylvania seniors and veterans to pay their bills and have the dignity and financial independence they deserve,” Schwartz said in a statement Wednesday.
Last year Schwartz quit the centrist, deficit-focused Third Way organization and resigned from the House Budget Committee after coming under pressure from organizations like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
In the last Congress, Schwartz had appeared more willing to look at cuts to entitlements as part of a grand bargain on the deficit.
She was one of only 38 House members to vote for a compromise budget resolution by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) in 2012 that would have curbed entitlement spending while raising tax revenue. It included the chained CPI proposal that the Schwartz letter opposes.
Schwartz's office explained Wednesday that the congresswoman never supported that part of the budget resolution.
"The Congresswoman's vote for the Cooper-LaTourette amendment was about demanding action from a Congress that has failed to tackle big issues, including fiscal issues. She disagreed with its provisions on Social Security and Medicare, but her vote was aimed at sending a message that a hopelessly-divided Washington had to sit down and work across party lines to reach a consensus," Schwartz spokesman Greg Vadala said.
A large swath of House liberals signed the letter to Obama, though no leaders were on the letter. Of note, Blue Dog Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) is on board.