President Barack Obama will drop from his upcoming budget proposal a previous offer of Social Security cuts, a move that is designed to head off a backlash from Democrats and grassroots liberal groups in an election year.
Obama will not include the “chained CPI” cost-of-living adjustment, which cuts Social Security benefits by recalculating the growth of benefits with an index that doesn’t rise as quickly as inflation. Democrats applauded the move almost immediately, while Republicans framed it as another sign that Obama is unwilling to address the long-term deficit crisis.
“House Democrats have stood behind President Obama’s honest efforts in recent years to forge a bipartisan grand bargain with congressional Republicans. In the course of those negotiations, he put chained CPI on the table as a gesture of good faith; yet Republican leaders were unwilling to budge or close a single unfair tax loophole, and decided to walk away from opportunities to find common ground,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
“Democrats applaud the President for eliminating chained CPI from his budget, and we look forward to working across the aisle to adopt a responsible fiscal framework.”
House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office had a different take. Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said it was clear that Obama was “throwing in the towel” on the possibility of any negotiations.
“This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: the president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis,” Buck said in a statement.
“The one and only idea the president has to offer is even more job-destroying tax hikes, and that non-starter won’t do anything to save the entitlement programs that are critical to so many Americans. With three years left in office, it seems the president is already throwing in the towel.”
Obama had painted the inclusion of Social Security cuts in previous budgets as an olive branch to Republicans. But after he released his budget last year, Republicans quickly used the benefit cuts to attack Obama. Rep. Greg Walden, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, denounced the cuts as a “shocking attack on seniors.”
Obama also faced a revolt from the left. Democrats had publicly and privately urged Obama to drop the proposal, knowing that it would be an especially tough sell for constituents in an election year. Some liberal groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee made it a central theme of their advocacy.
“This is a huge progressive victory — and greatly increases Democratic chances of taking back the House and keeping the Senate,” PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor said in an emailed statement.
“Now, the White House should join Elizabeth Warren and others in pushing to expand Social Security benefits to keep up with the rising cost of living.”
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