The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 12, 2012

No budging as fiscal cliff talks appear stalled

(Continued)

Others wouldn't rule it out completely.

"If there's real cuts in spending, if there's real reform of entitlement programs, I think all of us would have to reconsider our position," Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said Wednesday. "But the problem is, I don't see real cuts, real cuts. I'm not saying yes and I'm not saying no."

Liberal Democrats are trying to pull Obama in the opposite direction on Medicare and Social Security. Eighteen months ago, Obama had all but agreed to an increase in the retirement age and a less generous inflation adjustment for calculating Social Security COLAs.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned Republicans against insisting on raising the Medicare eligibility age as part of any deal.

"Don't go there," Pelosi said on "CBS This Morning." She said raising the retirement age wouldn't contribute much savings toward an agreement in the short term, adding, "Is it just a trophy that the Republicans want to take home?"

Raising the Medicare age from 65 to 67 could cut Medicare costs by $162 billion over a decade, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate last year. But by 2035, it would cut Medicare's projected budget by 7 percent.

That estimate, however, assumes the eligibility age would increase rather abruptly and hit people just about to retire. Republicans have instead in the past that their Medicare proposals won't affect now those 55 and above.

Democrats are also pushing back against a GOP plan to reduce Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, another step back from where Obama and Boehner were just 18 months ago.

"Quite frankly, Social Security is off the table," said Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.

The backtracking has Republicans fuming that Obama campaigned on a "balanced" fiscal solution but now is unwilling to pair tax increases with politically painful cuts to Medicare and other popular programs.

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