Politics

White House punts on entitlement reform

White House punts on entitlement reform

As Republican House Members elected last year and in 2010 increasingly say they won’t vote to lift the debt ceiling until the Obama administration agrees to a reform of entitlements, the White House on Tuesday appeared to be moving away from a firm pledge to deal with precisely that.

Asked at the White House precisely whether the administration would “offer up or negotiate a more comprehensive, long-running restructuring of entitlement programs,” press secretary Jay Carney would not make a commitment to do what many congressional Republicans say they want most in the fiscal cliff negotiations.

“What the president said last week and what he said repeatedly before that, and what holds true today, is that he is committed to further deficit reduction in a balanced way,” Carney replied. “What he will not accept is deficit reduction that is borne solely by seniors, solely by families with disabled children, solely by families trying to send their kids to college or other vulnerable groups.”

Without mentioning the word “entitlement,” the president’s top spokesman went on to say that “one of the things that we learned through this process” of dealing with Capitol Hill was that “when it came to spending, cuts could be found more on our side than on theirs. And if the Republicans are suggesting that the answer to the sequester, to the debt ceiling, or any other thing, are simply to slash benefits for seniors, they ought to say so and they ought to provide a specified plan. They know that the president won’t accept that.”

He went on to say that ending the deficit “means spending cuts; it means entitlement reform and it means tax reform.” But rather than expounding on what he meant by “entitlement reform,” Carney instead discussed tax reform as “something that Republicans and Democrats have both expressed keen interest in achieving. Tax reform is something that, according to the Speaker of the House, could produce significant revenue. When coupled with additional spending cuts, that revenue and that savings could further reduce our deficit significantly. And that’s certainly what the president hopes to achieve.”

As for whether Mr. Obama hopes to achieve significant deficit reduction through entitlement reform and what he means by that, the media will obviously have to wait for another briefing.

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