Senate Dem split on Obama budget on full display in hearing

ADVERTISEMENT

Zients argued that the most vulnerable seniors and veterans get a sufficient supplemental increase if they live long enough. 

“That’s a good talking point,” said an irate Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Biden, Sanders edge Trump in hypothetical 2020 matchups in Fox News poll O'Rourke tests whether do-it-yourself campaign can work on 2020 stage MORE (I-Vt.), who said the chained CPI proposal will hurt veterans.

“Mr. Zients, do you really think we should we do deficit reduction on the backs of men and women who lost arms and legs defending this country?” Sanders asked. 

Zients emphasized that means-tested veterans benefits are not affected by chained CPI. 

Sanders also blasted the administration for committing to revenue-neutral corporate tax reform. 

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Judge halts drilling on Wyoming public lands over climate change | Dems demand details on Interior's offshore drilling plans | Trump mocks wind power Dem senators demand offshore drilling info before Bernhardt confirmation hearing Business groups urge Congress to combat LGBTQ discrimination in workplace MORE (D-Ore.) also harshly criticized Zients and alleged that the administration had not examined other options to fix Social Security. 

Centrist Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump, Congress brace for Mueller findings The wisdom of Trump's lawyers, and the accountability that must follow Mueller's report Hillicon Valley: Kushner accused of using WhatsApp, personal email for official work | White House rejects request for Trump-Putin communications | Facebook left 'hundreds of millions' of passwords unsecured | Tech pressured to root out extremism MORE (D-Va.), who has spent years chasing an elusive grand bargain, offered praise for the budget. 

“The fact you are getting so much grief from both sides of the aisle shows that you are probably in the zone where things are going to get talked about, because if there is not angst on both sides, things aren’t going to get done,” he said. 

“The president’s budget starts to take on challenges of Social Security,” he said, estimating that 22 percent of Social Security’s solvency problem would be solved by chained CPI. “The math is pretty persuasive.”

The Social Security trust fund is not estimated to be able to pay full benefits after about 2033. 

Centrist Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate Dem calls on Trump to apologize for attacks on McCain Sixteen years later, let's finally heed the call of the 9/11 Commission  Senate Dems introduce bill demanding report on Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Del.) signaled openness to chained CPI if a “circle of protection” can be constructed to help the most vulnerable, like those on Social Security for a long time. 

During the hearing he sought more details on the protections, which include “bump up” payments for those over age 75 and exemptions for poverty programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), noting he had “concerns.”