Boehner, Sessions seek spending pullbacks

Nov. 21, 2012 at 4:05 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Key U.S. Republican congressional leaders say they want to trim Obamacare and head off other Democratic spending as the so-called fiscal cliff looms.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said in an opinion piece in The Cincinnati Enquirer Wednesday the healthcare reform law Congress approved in President Obama's first term must be part of the upcoming tax-and-spending negotiations.

"We can't afford it, and we can't afford to leave it intact," Boehner wrote. "That's why I've been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation's massive debt challenge."

Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said in a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday the price tags on any spending proposals must be offset by real cuts elsewhere, The Hill reported.

Steps to offset proposals such as extending the payroll tax cut, changes in Medicare or extending jobless benefits must "be achieved through real savings, not gimmicks like counting baseline savings from future war spending that is not expected to occur, Sessions wrote.

He counseled lawmakers to hold to levels agreed to last year.

"Congress must reorganize and reprioritize these cuts, but we must not retreat from the overall amount Congress agreed to and that the president signed into law," he wrote.

Obama re-election campaign manager Jim Messina said campaign staff and technology could be used to put pressure on Congress to agree to the president's position.

"It would be very easy for supporters today to go and start asking people to call members of Congress," Messina said at a Washington event sponsored by Politico.

"I am sure you will see our supporters start doing that."

Messina said a decision had not been made, but if it were, the effort would include the re-election campaign's online organizing tool, called Dashboard.

"You could easily see people using Dashboard to say, 'OK, I want to talk about the choices ahead of us in the fiscal cliff [debate] and I want to start organizing my friends,'" he said.

"Dashboard would be very easy to start a group. We did over 350,000 events on Dashboard the last couple months of the campaign."

As part of his fiscal cliff proposal, Obama wants to let tax rates rise to 39.6 percent from 35 percent on taxable incomes of more than $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

Ending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for those wealthy people would raise about $440 billion in new revenue over 10 years, the White House estimates.

Obama also plans to travel outside Washington in the hope of broadening national support for the idea, which White House officials say they believe won voter backing in the Nov. 6 election.

In private meetings, White House and House Republican staff members have been reviewing deficit-reduction proposals and discussing what ideas could aid a short-term agreement to avoid the year-end fiscal cliff, The Wall Street Journal reported.

They're also working on a broader deal that would set targets for lawmakers next year to overhaul spending and taxes over the longer term, the Journal said.

The looming fiscal cliff is a combination of hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to begin Jan. 1. The Congressional Budget Office predicts if the cliff is not avoided, the U.S. economy would fall back into recession next year and the jobless rate would rise to 9.1 percent.

Messina said Obama's healthcare reform would never have passed if the campaign operation hadn't been repurposed after Obama won the White House in 2008. The operation became a Democratic National Committee community-organizing project called Organizing for America, seeking to mobilize supporters in favor of Obama's legislative priorities.

Messina also pointed out the party's shellacking in the 2010 midterm elections showed the DNC project's limitations.

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