Sixty-four senators call on Obama to take up tax and entitlement reform

Sixty-four senators call on Obama to take up tax and entitlement reform

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.

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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 BennetDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Gabbard drives coverage in push to qualify for October debate Bennet launches first TV ads in Iowa 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.

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“We need the White House to be engaged,” Johanns said in a press call explaining the letter. “There is no question that tackling tax reform and entitlements is tough. … We won’t have any chance unless the president joins with us in the good-faith effort.

“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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinKavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Democrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Pressley on Kavanaugh impeachment: 'Deeply disturbing' that a justice 'could have this many allegations' MORE (D-Ill.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (R-Okla.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken 2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft Trump faces tough path to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac overhaul MORE (R-Idaho), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCalifornia Law to rebuild middle class shows need for congressional action Hillicon Valley: FCC approves Nexstar-Tribune merger | Top Democrat seeks answers on security of biometric data | 2020 Democrats take on Chinese IP theft | How Google, Facebook probes are testing century-old antitrust laws Top Democrat demands answers from CBP on security of biometric data MORE (D-Va.) and Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissThe Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post Republicans say Democrats holding up disaster relief as 'Sandy payback' 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 warns Trump 'can be reelected' Homeland Security Republican accuses Navy of withholding UFO info Poll: 47 percent back limits on Senate filibuster 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 RyanThree-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas Republicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea MORE (R-Wis.) described as mind-boggling.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader Scaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' 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 McConnellDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Democrats press for action on election security Hillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill 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 AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Tenn.). On the other hand, Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLewandowski says he's under no obligation to speak truthfully to the media Nadler considering holding Lewandowski in contempt Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing 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 AyotteGOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (N.H.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP senator: Iran is behind attack on Saudi Arabia House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge MORE (Wyo.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? MORE (Mo.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanVA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal There is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen MORE (Ark.), Scott Brown (Mass.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrLawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes Trump to hold campaign rally in North Carolina day before special House election Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post MORE (N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTrump has named more ex-lobbyists to Cabinet in 3 years than Obama, Bush did in full terms: report Hillicon Valley: FCC approves Nexstar-Tribune merger | Top Democrat seeks answers on security of biometric data | 2020 Democrats take on Chinese IP theft | How Google, Facebook probes are testing century-old antitrust laws Congress should defy Dan Coats' last request on phone surveillance MORE (Ind.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBiden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe Trump praises Thad Cochran: 'A real senator with incredible values' MORE (R-Miss.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats press for action on election security On The Money: NY prosecutors subpoena eight years of Trump tax returns | Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms | Progressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum | Trump faces dwindling leverage with China Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms MORE (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Liz Cheney and Rand Paul extend war of words The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown MORE (Wyo.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump fires back at Graham over Iran criticism Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US Republicans wary of US action on Iran MORE (S.C.) John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenBottom Line Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator McConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal MORE (N.D.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeHouse rejects GOP motion on replacing Pentagon funding used on border wall Republicans wary of US action on Iran Is the Senate ready to protect American interests in space? MORE (Okla.), Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 GOP senator presses VA after veteran reportedly bitten by ants at nursing home GOP buys JonOssoff.com after Democrat launches Georgia Senate bid MORE (Ga.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRepublicans wary of US action on Iran Democratic senator warns O'Rourke AR-15 pledge could haunt party for years Conservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks MORE (Wis.), Mark KirkMark Steven Kirk The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation Advocates push for EpiPens on flights after college student's mid-flight allergic reaction Funding the fight against polio MORE (Ill.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill Antitrust enforcers in turf war over Big Tech Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan MORE (Utah), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranPompeo pressed on possible Senate run by Kansas media Jerry Moran: 'I wouldn't be surprised' if Pompeo ran for Senate in Kansas Senators introduce bill aimed at protecting Olympic athletes in response to abuse scandals MORE (Kan.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiKavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw McConnell lashes out at Democrats over 'unhinged' criticism of Kavanaugh The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (Alaska), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCost for last three government shutdowns estimated at billion The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (Ohio), James Risch (Idaho), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers ramp up Silicon Valley antitrust probe | Treasury sanctions North Korean cyber groups | Thiel to host Kobach fundraiser Ann Coulter, Peter Thiel slated to host fundraiser for Kobach's Senate bid: report MORE (Kan.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDemocrats press for action on election security Prospects for Trump gun deal grow dimmer Trump, lawmakers consider app that would conduct background checks: report MORE (S.D.) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick Wicker The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation GOP lawmaker: 'Dangerous' abuse of Interpol by Russia, China, Venezuela Suburban anxiety drives GOP on guns MORE (Miss.).

Members of the Democratic Caucus who signed the letter:

John KerryJohn Forbes KerryLet's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy The Memo: Democrats struggle to find the strongest swing-state candidate 2020 caucuses pose biggest challenge yet for Iowa's top pollster MORE (Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharMark Mellman: The most important moment in history? Democrats press for action on election security Antitrust enforcers in turf war over Big Tech MORE (Minn.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats press for action on election security Interior gains new watchdog On The Money: NY prosecutors subpoena eight years of Trump tax returns | Senators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms | Progressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum | Trump faces dwindling leverage with China MORE (Ore.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenLewandowski launches campaign-style website during Capitol Hill hearing Democrats headed for a subpoena showdown with White House Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine MORE (N.H.), Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganTillis trails Democratic challenger by 7 points in North Carolina poll North Carolina businessman will challenge Tillis in GOP primary Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 MORE (N.C.), Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE (Alaska), Thomas Carper (Del.), Mark UdallMark Emery UdallPoll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down MORE (Colo.), Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGrassley: Kavanaugh classmate didn't contact Senate panel Trump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions This week: Congress returns for first time since mass shootings MORE (Caif.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterGOP Sen. Johnny Isakson to resign at end of year Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 MORE (Mont.), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsBill to return B in unredeemed bonds advances Grassley: Kavanaugh classmate didn't contact Senate panel Democratic senator: Attacks on Saudi oil refineries 'may call for military action against Iran' MORE (Del.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (Mo.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonAl Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups MORE (Fla.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinKavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Democrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Senate Democrats to hold the floor to protest inaction on gun violence MORE (W.Va.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCongress passes bill to begin scenic byways renaissance GOP lawmaker: 'Dangerous' abuse of Interpol by Russia, China, Venezuela Senators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir MORE (Md.), Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? The Memo: Times correction gives GOP lifeline in latest Kavanaugh controversy Politicon announces lineup including Comey, Hannity, Priebus MORE (Minn.), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world MORE (La.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Mark Warner (Va.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinWisconsin lawmaker gets buzz-cut after vowing not to cut hair until sign language bill passed Democratic debates kick off Iowa summer sprint Key endorsements: A who's who in early states MORE (Iowa), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayEXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns Overnight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare Trump's sinking polls embolden Democrats to play hardball MORE (Wash.), Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Conservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks USDA cuts payments promised to researchers as agency uproots to Kansas City MORE (Mich.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: Trump to revoke California's tailpipe waiver | Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback | Trump officials finalize rule allowing fewer inspectors at pork plants Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback MORE (N.M.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken Hillicon Valley: Google to promote original reporting | Senators demand answers from Amazon on worker treatment | Lawmakers weigh response to ransomware attacks Senate Democrats want answers on 'dangerous' Amazon delivery system MORE (Ohio).

This story was posted at 9:56 a.m. and last updated at 12 p.m.