Senator: Medicare reform depends on Obama

March 10, 2013 at 2:24 PM

WASHINGTON, March 10 (UPI) -- A Republican U.S. senator said the table talk at his recent dinner with President Obama focused on healthcare as the crux of the nation's economic issues.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said Sunday last week's bipartisan White House gathering was productive in setting priorities for the thorny job of crafting economic policy, and healthcare in general and Medicare in particular were a top priority.

"Basically Americans pay in a dollar, but they get more than $3 in benefits," Johnson said on ABC's "This Week." The president "said people generally don't understand that. They think that money is theirs."

Johnson said he told Obama that as president, he was "in a unique position to be able to make sure the American people understand that."

"We're not going to be able to solve these very difficult problems unless we start laying the groundwork, and prepare the American people for some of the solutions," Johnson added.

Rep. Debbie Wassermann Schultz, D-Fla., chair of the Democratic National Committee, added it could be a tall order for Obama to begin forging relationships with congressional Republicans when he visits the Capitol this week given the tense partisan atmosphere on the Hill. "It is really hard to make tough decisions, and reach consensus when there is such a trust gap," she said.

Schultz contended the Republicans needed to put a little more give into the give-and-take required to get anything done in Congress these days, particularly in terms of spending cuts. She said while the GOP may hold a majority in the House, it was not enough of an advantage that they could dismiss the Democrats altogether.

"The Republicans have been able to get absolutely nothing done with their majority," said Schultz. "They've needed our members to actually sit down, be willing to make political sacrifice, actually spend some political capital."

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