White House insists budget doesn't take pass on entitlements

Rejecting GOP criticism, the White House on Monday said its budget doesn't take a pass on exploding entitlement spending. 

“I don’t think we take a pass,” Acting Budget Director Jeff Zients told reporters.

National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling said that President Obama “is putting out entitlement changes I’ve never seen before in a presidential budget.”

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He also noted the White House has been trying to negotiate a grand bargain on entitlements with the GOP.

“All that has been holding us back from progress” on that is House Republicans unwilling to put revenue on the table, he said. 

The 2013 Obama budget projects $360 billion in healthcare savings over 10 years. The budget says money will be saved by charging wealthier people higher Medicare premiums and cutting some payments to providers and drug companies.

According to the White House, the savings extend the life of the Medicare trust fund — set to be insolvent after 2022 — by two years.  

The GOP says this is paltry, and that House Republicans last year proposed transforming Medicare into a system of private insurance to extend its life further. 

"If the White House argues that taking more money from the paychecks of hardworking American families is a prerequisite to the consideration of entitlement reform, and its budget imposes a $1.9 trillion tax hike, then the obvious question is: Where is the entitlement reform?," said Conor Sweeney, spokesman for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

He said that the budget imposes "painful price controls on Medicare" and "fails to take any credible steps to avert the 23 percent across-the-board benefit cut set to hit seniors when the Social Security Trust Fund is exhausted – a cut the Social Security Trustees warn of with increasing alarm year after year."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was also critical

“The President’s budget is bad for our seniors because it doesn’t protect the security of Medicare and Social Security and assures those programs keep careening towards insolvency,” he said. 

— This story was updated at 7:42 p.m.