Dems: The ball in the GOP’s court on Medicare cuts

"We aren't going to negotiate with us," Harry Reid said of Republicans rejecting Obama's initial proposal

Topics: Medicare, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, John Boehner, Budget Showdown, Fiscal cliff,

In order for the talks over the “fiscal cliff” to move forward, Democrats say Republicans must propose their own plan for Medicare cuts and other cuts to entitlement programs.

The Democrats took a hard line last night, after top Republicans rejected President Obama’s first offer to resolve the “fiscal cliff” on the grounds that it did not address spending cuts seriously enough. From the New York Times, the plan mostly included ways to raise revenues, with the additional promise that $400 billion in entitlement savings could possibly be negotiated next year:

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner presented the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a detailed proposal on Thursday to avert the year-end fiscal crisis with $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, $50 billion in immediate stimulus spending, home mortgage refinancing and a permanent end to Congressional control over statutory borrowing limits.

The proposal, loaded with Democratic priorities and short on detailed spending cuts, met strong Republican resistance. In exchange for locking in the $1.6 trillion in added revenues, President Obama embraced the goal of finding $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other social programs to be worked out next year, with no guarantees.

“The Democrats have yet to get serious about real spending cuts,” House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a press conference after the meeting. “No substantive progress has been made in the talks between the White House and the House over the last two weeks.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was similarly unimpressed: “They took a step backward, moving away from consensus and significantly closer to the cliff.”

But top Democrats say its time for the Republicans to come up with a plan. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters: “We’ve come down with ours. We’re still waiting for theirs. That’s the status of the negotiations.”

“We aren’t going to negotiate with us,” said Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate Majority Leader, CNN reports. ”We made a proposal through the president of the United States. That proposal says we should revert back to the same tax plan that we had when Clinton was president — protect folk making less than $250,000 a year, have the richest pay a little bit extra.”

“We have made our proposal,” he said. “Let them come forward with something.”

And Democrats have no reason to offer anything else at this point. As Brian Beutler of TPM writes, “The problem is, unlike the Democrats’ calls for higher taxes on rich Americans, the GOP’s preferred Medicare cuts are deeply unpopular. So they’re trying to cow Democrats into proposing these cuts first — to effectively author both sides of the proposal — and provide them political cover.”

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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