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House Republicans Want Budget Cuts For Seniors, But Not For Insurance Companies

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WASHINGTON -- House Republicans on Thursday attacked President Barack Obama after word from the White House that his fiscal 2015 budget drops proposed cuts to Social Security benefits. The GOP also criticized Obama for a Medicare rule change that would squeeze drugmakers, pharmacies and health insurers.

The GOP criticism puts the party in the uncomfortable position of advocating budget cuts that would affect ordinary Americans, but resisting a move that may pressure big businesses.

The White House on Thursday confirmed that the budget Obama will present to Congress next month won't include cuts to Social Security, which Obama put on the table last year in hopes of enticing Republicans to consider a "grand bargain" that included tax increases. A spokesman for Obama said Social Security cuts remain a possibility.

"This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: the president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), in an email. "The one and only idea the president has to offer is even more job-destroying tax hikes, and that non-starter won't do anything to save the entitlement programs that are critical to so many Americans. With three years left in office, it seems the president is already throwing in the towel."

Obama proposed Social Security cuts in his 2014 budget by offering to link future annual cost-of-living increases to chained CPI. The measure would have saved the government money at the expense of Social Security recipients. House Democrats and progressive groups slammed Obama for the offer. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) called it "a shocking attack on seniors."

Walden chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, which last week claimed seniors may lose Social Security benefits if they elect Florida Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink, who has said she'd consider parts of the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan.

On Thursday, the NRCC put out statements criticizing House Democrats in close races over Obama's proposed rule changes for the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, which would permit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the first time to take part in negotiations between insurance companies and pharmacies to lower drug costs and protect consumers.

The rule change, announced last month, would allow the government to press for lower prices, give consumers more choices and hold providers to account, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In one press release, NRCC communications director Andrea Bozek targeted Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.). “First Obamacare and now Medicare Part D, seniors are being thrown a one-two punch from Ron Barber and House Democrats who have supported this failed law and have kept the door open for even more harmful side effects," Bozek said.

The Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday that, by 2024, health care spending will surpass Social Security as a government cost, suggesting a greater need to cut costs on the health care side.

Last week, Republican House leaders wrote a letter to Obama expressing concern about Affordable Care Act reductions to Medicare Advantage. However, the GOP's own budget proposals have included these cuts since 2011.

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