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Boehner: Budget holds reforms 'hostage'

April 5, 2013 at 3:05 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, April 5 (UPI) -- House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said President Barack Obama, in the budget he previewed Friday, is holding entitlement reforms "hostage for more tax hikes."

Obama's budget blueprint, to be released next week, will include proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare, and some new tax increases, administration officials said.

The senior officials said Obama's budget will include an offer the president made to Boehner in December -- $400 billion in savings to Medicare over 10 years, CNN reported Friday. Senior administration officials confirmed Friday the budget would include "chained CPI" -- a formula that would reduce the rate of federal benefit and Social Security payment increases keyed to the rate of inflation, and a key Republican request.

"If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to shore up these programs, there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes," Boehner said in a statement. "That's no way to lead and move the country forward."

His statement is a rejection of Obama's call for Congress to agree to a combination of tax hikes and entitlement changes, the Washington newspaper The Hill reported Friday.

Liberals criticized the president for the proposed Social Security and Medicare cuts and warned congressional Democrats not to vote for the proposals, the left-leaning Talking Points Memo website reported.

Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org said in a statement the cuts "would harm seniors who worked hard all their lives."

"That's unconscionable," she said. "It's even more outrageous given that Republicans in Congress aren't even asking for this Social Security cut. This time, the drive to cut Social Security is being led by President Obama and Democrats."

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., said he will "do everything in [his] power" to block the cuts, The Hill reported.

"In poll after poll, the American people are overwhelmingly against cutting Social Security," Sanders said in a statement. "And organizations representing a broad spectrum of millions of Americans from the AFL-CIO to the American Legion to AARP to NOW have urged the president not to make this terrible mistake."

Some critics of chained CPI say it is not an accurate way to measure inflation for Social Security recipients because their healthcare expenses rise faster than inflation, CNN said.

"The president's budget to be presented on Wednesday will show how we can invest in the things we need to grow our economy, create jobs and strengthen the middle class while further reducing the deficit in a balanced way," an official said.

The new budget would garner about $1.8 trillion in savings in 10 years and replace the forced budget cuts, known as the sequester, that took effect March 1, CNN said.

Also included in Obama's proposal are funds for initiatives he outlined in his State of the Union address, including universal access to pre-kindergarten education, which would be underwritten by an increase in cigarette taxes.

The plan would close a loophole that allows people to collect disability and unemployment benefits simultaneously, officials said.

Obama's budget was due in February. Congressional Republicans have been critical of the delay, which followed drawn-out negotiations on spending cuts and tax rates.

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