President Obama came under new pressure Friday to broaden talks about government spending to include tax and entitlement reform.
Sixty-four senators — 32 Democrats and 32 Republicans — called for the expanded talks in a letter to Obama.
The letter was circulated by Sens. Mike JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Farmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World MORE (R-Neb.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBuilding back better by investing in workers and communities Biden signs bill to help victims of 'Havana syndrome' Colorado remap plan creates new competitive district MORE (D-Colo.), who were able to get a supermajority of the Senate within 24 hours. It urges Obama to "engage in a broader discussion about a comprehensive deficit-reduction package."
"Specifically, we hope that the discussion will include discretionary spending cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform," the letter states.
It endorses the report late last year from Obama's fiscal commission as a basis for the conversation.
"As you know, a bipartisan group of senators has been working to craft a comprehensive deficit reduction package based upon the recommendations of the Fiscal Commission," the letter states. "While we may not agree with every aspect of the Commission’s recommendations, we believe that its work represents an important foundation to achieve meaningful progress on our debt."
The letter does not specify what entitlements and tax reforms should be included in the talks.
“The ball is very clearly in the president’s court,” Johanns said.
“We want to work toward a comprehensive plan,” Bennet said. “This is about keeping the conversations going, keeping it alive.”
The White House said Obama head already made moves to deal with entitlements and tax reform, including in this year's State of the Union address, and that the president welcomed the input from Congress.
"We believe it’s a positive development anytime Democrats and Republicans come together to work on one of our nation’s toughest challenges, and we will continue to work with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to rein in our deficit, grow our economy, and win the future," White House spokesperson Amy Brundage said.
“The President agrees that any serious discussion of how to tackle our long-term fiscal situation needs to include entitlements and tax reform, which is why he committed to take on both in his State of the Union Address," she said.
Brundage also said the president's budget included "down payments" on tax and entitlement reform, including proposals to limit tax breaks for wealthier taxpayers and to fix an ongoing problem related to the payments doctors receive under Medicare, and that Obama had moved forward on recommendations from the debt panel to reform the nation's medical malpractice system and to institute a pay freeze for federal workers.
Discussions in Washington on spending have focused on the current fiscal year, with Democrats and Republicans battling over about $50 billion in domestic discretionary spending.
Separately, six senators from both parties have been working to put the bipartisan recommendations of Obama's fiscal commission into legislation. The debt commission included tax and entitlement reforms in its recommendations.
The group — Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinManchin: Negotiators to miss Friday target for deal on reconciliation bill Democrats look for plan B on filibuster The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats MORE (D-Ill.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnBiden and AOC's reckless spending plans are a threat to the planet NSF funding choice: Move forward or fall behind DHS establishes domestic terror unit within its intelligence office MORE (R-Okla.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoDemocrats narrow scope of IRS proposal amid GOP attacks Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Yellen confident of minimum global corporate tax passage in Congress MORE (R-Idaho), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Biden seeks to quell concerns over climate proposals Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Intelligence report warns of climate threats in all countries The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Biden holds meetings to resurrect his spending plan MORE (D-Va.) and Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Live coverage: Georgia Senate runoffs Trump, Biden face new head-to-head contest in Georgia MORE (R-Ga.) — met again Thursday night to continue their negotiations. The Republicans in the group are under heavy pressure from outside groups not to endorse reforms that increase taxes, while the Democrats are being lobbied not to include Social Security reform.
Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) said this week he would be open to tackling Social Security in 20 years, a statement that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.) described as mind-boggling.
Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE (R-Ohio) has offered to give the president political cover if he takes up entitlement reform. Obama did not include comprehensive entitlement reforms in his budget proposal for the next fiscal year.
Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) did not sign the letter and were not asked to, according to Johanns, who said this was in keeping with Senate tradition.
Durbin, the majority whip, has signed
the letter, as has Senate Minority Conference Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE
(R-Tenn.). On the other hand, Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits McCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Overnight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability MORE (R-Ala.) is not on the letter.
Johanns said this is the best year to tackle a comprehensive plan since next year is an election year. Bennet said that simply talking about 2011 funding is not sufficient.
Here is the full text of the letter to Obama, followed by the names of the senators signing the letter:
Dear President Obama:
As the Administration continues to work with Congressional leadership regarding our current budget situation, we write to inform you that we believe comprehensive deficit reduction measures are imperative and to ask you to support a broad approach to solving the problem.
As you know, a bipartisan group of Senators has been working to craft a comprehensive deficit reduction package based upon the recommendations of the Fiscal Commission. While we may not agree with every aspect of the Commission’s recommendations, we believe that its work represents an important foundation to achieve meaningful progress on our debt. The Commission’s work also underscored the scope and breadth of our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges.
Beyond FY2011 funding decisions, we urge you to engage in a broader discussion about a comprehensive deficit reduction package. Specifically, we hope that the discussion will include discretionary spending cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform.
By approaching these negotiations comprehensively, with a strong signal of support from you, we believe that we can achieve consensus on these important fiscal issues. This would send a powerful message to Americans that Washington can work together to tackle this critical issue.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Republicans signing the letter:
Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyottePoll: New Hampshire Senate race tight Biden likely to tap Robert Califf to return as FDA head Poll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat MORE (N.H.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate appears poised to advance first Native American to lead National Park Service Sunday shows preview: Senate votes to raise debt ceiling; Facebook whistleblower blasts company during testimony The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (Wyo.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntIt's time to make access to quality kidney care accessible and equitable for all Hartzler pulls in 6,000 for Missouri Senate bid with .65M on hand McConnell gets GOP wake-up call MORE (Mo.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanArkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats Proposed IRS reporting requirements threaten taxpayer privacy, burden community financial institutions More than ever, we must 'stand to' — and stand behind — our veterans MORE (Ark.), Scott Brown (Mass.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrDemocratic incumbents bolster fundraising advantage in key Senate races McConnell gets GOP wake-up call Senate approves short-term debt ceiling increase MORE (N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race Cyber preparedness could save America's 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' MORE (Ind.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBottom line Bottom line Alabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future MORE (R-Miss.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? 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John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenHouse passes legislation to strengthen federal cybersecurity workforce The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands MORE (N.D.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan GOP lawmakers worry vaccine mandate will impact defense supply chain Top GOP senators want joint review of Afghan visa process MORE (Okla.), Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonHerschel Walker calls off fundraiser with woman who had swastika in Twitter profile Georgia reporter says state will 'continue to be a premier battleground' Critical race theory becomes focus of midterms MORE (Ga.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonA pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Sen. Ron Johnson hoping for Democratic 'gridlock' on reconciliation package Republicans' mantra should have been 'Stop the Spread' MORE (Wis.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (Ill.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCawthorn, Lee introduce bills banning interstate travel vaccine mandate Retreating economy creates new hurdle for Democrats in 2022 McConnell vows GOP won't help raise debt ceiling in December after Schumer 'tantrum' MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Star gymnasts call on Congress to dissolve US Olympics board Expats plead with US to deliver COVID-19 vaccines MORE (Kan.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHouse passes bill to expand workplace protections for nursing mothers Democrats look for plan B on filibuster Senate will vote on John Lewis voting bill as soon as next week MORE (Alaska), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Top GOP senators want joint review of Afghan visa process Timken rolls out six-figure ad campaign, hits Fauci MORE (Ohio), James Risch (Idaho), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call Bob Dole, Pat Roberts endorse Kansas AG Derek Schmidt for governor Ex-Sen. 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Members of the Democratic Caucus who signed the letter:
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MORE (Mont.), Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsManchin threatens 'zero' spending in blowup with Sanders: reports Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' MORE (Del.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-Rep. Akin dies at 74 Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect MORE (Mo.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA adviser quits after request to change name of James Webb telescope denied NASA won't rename James Webb Space Telescope despite controversy FAA unveils new system to reduce planes' times on taxiway MORE (Fla.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Biden seeks to quell concerns over climate proposals MORE (W.Va.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinIt's time to make access to quality kidney care accessible and equitable for all Charity game lets users bet on elections Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program MORE (Md.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' Andrew Cuomo and the death of shame MORE (Minn.), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCassidy wins reelection in Louisiana Bottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth MORE (La.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Mark Warner (Va.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinFCC needs to help services for the deaf catch up to videoconferencing tech Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Ex-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa MORE (Iowa), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayUnder pressure, Democrats cut back spending Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised Senate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades MORE (Wash.), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSenate Democrats dial down the Manchin tension Democrats surprised, caught off guard by 'framework' deal Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B MORE (Mich.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Defense: Milley reportedly warned Trump against Iran strikes | Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer killed in Afghanistan | 70 percent of active-duty military at least partially vaccinated Biden nominates former Sen. 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This story was posted at 9:56 a.m. and last updated at 12 p.m.