Blue Dogs: Health benefits won't be cut

Conservative Democrats said Wednesday that no one's talking about cutting elderly Americans' health benefits, even as they urged the deficit supercommittee to go beyond its mandate and shave $4 trillion off the federal deficit.

"No one is going to vote to cut benefits for seniors and for those who are near the Medicare and Social Security age, Democrat or Republican," said Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.). "No one's going to do that. Politically it would be suicide.

"The fact is that we have to reform the system so that they're there for my children and grandchildren while protecting the basic benefits that are provided to seniors today and seniors that will be coming online over the next few years," he said. In a lot of elections, "one party accuses the other one of cutting grandma's Social Security check. And I'm here to tell you that neither political party's going to do that."

Ross spoke at a press conference where the Blue Dog Coalition unveiled a letter they sent to the supercommittee demanding $4 trillion in deficit cuts — including through tax reform — rather than the $1.5 trillion the committee is charged with finding.

"Political operatives, with an eye toward November 2012, will turn this into a battle of Democrats versus Republicans," the letter states. "Now is the time to take a time-out from the 2012 elections, put party affiliations aside, and work together for the sake of our country's future."

The supercommittee needs to "go big," the group said, rather than fall back on the default 2 percent cut in Medicare payments and other cuts that Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) decried as insufficient and "arbitrary."

"You can't [tackle the deficit] without reforming entitlements," said Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.). "You'd be lying to the American people if you think you can do it any other way. You can't do it without putting everything on the table."