Obama causes Medicare jitters with call for deficit reduction

"The fact that he mentioned it, and didn't do it in hushing tones, to me says that he understands this is a function that we need to do," said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). "Otherwise we're trying to deal with 13 percent to 14 percent of the budget."

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) told The Hill that the president should take the long view and make politically painful cuts to entitlements, which drive most of the nation's spending.

"If he does that," Lieberman said, "I think he can call on us in Congress, in both houses and both parties, to do the same."

The president "laid out some goals tonight but we've got to get more detail and quickly; and I think some of us are going to use both the expiration of the budget resolution and the need to extend the debt limit as pressure points at which we're going to demand at least the beginning of a process and then some action on deficit reduction."

Asked what Medicare adjustments he'd be calling for, Lieberman said "details will follow."

"You can't deal with our national debt unless you deal with Medicare," Lieberman said. "It's what could topple the Americans ship of state."