107 Dems try to take entitlement cuts off the table

The majority of the House Democratic Caucus signs a letter opposing any entitlement cuts

Topics: Entitlements, Entitlement reform, Entitlement cuts, Keith Ellison, Democrats, Sequestration

107 Dems try to take entitlement cuts off the tableRep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) (Credit: AP/Alex Brandon/Reuters/Henry Romero)

Concerned that a potential deal to defuse the looming sequestration cuts will include cuts to social safety-net programs, 107 House Democrats sent a letter to President Obama today calling on him to oppose any entitlement benefit reductions, including switching to the so-called chained CPI. It’s by far the largest number that have come out against the CPI cut, and it represents a majority of the Democratic Caucus in the lower chamber.

Republicans are demanding entitlement reform as part of a deal to avert the sequester, the planned spending cuts that will go into effect next month unless Congress acts. So far, neither Obama nor Senate Democrats have endorsed any cuts to the social safety-net programs, and the White House has specifically ruled out raising the Medicare eligibility age, but liberals fear Democratic leaders will give in on the chained CPI in order to win GOP support.

“I am concerned about it. We’ve got to remain vigilant; that’s why we wrote this letter,” Rep. Keith Ellison, the Chairman of the House Progressive Caucus, told Salon. Rep. Jan Schakowsky spearheaded the letter.

The chained CPI would change the way the government calculates inflation and lead to real cuts in benefits to seniors. But it’s the more palatable entitlement cut option for many Democrats, including staunch liberals like Nancy Pelosi, who said she could get the change through her caucus if she had to.

Ellison and his colleagues are hoping to head off that possibility with this letter. “I think it’s a big deal. There’s a consistency in the Democratic Caucus and I wouldn’t be surprised if we get even more,” he said. “We’re hoping that it’s enough to stop it. But if a bill comes on the floor, there’s probably enough Republicans, and even some Dems, who might still favor cuts to these vital programs. But at least consistently within the Democrats, I’m hoping our caucus won’t participate in that.”

The bloc certainly changes the math for any kind of deal, theoretically moving the parameters of the debate to the left by making any entitlement cut that much much more unlikely.

As Greg Sargent noted, Democrats are still being more flexible than Republicans by being willing to cut spending at all, while Republicans want to make up for the sequestration by spending cuts alone.

And Ellison said he and his colleagues are open to entitlement reform, just as long as it doesn’t cut benefits. For instance, he suggested raising or eliminating the income tax cap on Social Security, which currently exempts every dollar over $113,700 in income from taxation that funds Social Security.

But cuts are not the answer, he said. “It’s very real danger and something we need to keep an eye on. The folks who are opponents of these programs have always been opponents of these programs, so vigilance is the key. You’ve got to stay on it,” he added.

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>