02/15/2013 12:43 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2013

Obama Warned On Social Security Reform By House Democrats

President Barack Obama may find opposition from inside his own party if he is serious about making changes to the way Social Security benefits are distributed in order to pass a deal to replace sequestration.

A majority of the House Democrats -- 107 members -- sent Obama a letter on Friday stating that any changes to entitlements will be opposed by members of his own party.

"We remain deeply opposed to proposals to reduce Social Security benefits through use of the chained CPI to calculate cost-of-living adjustments," reads the letter, which was the idea of Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.).

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney recently said the president would be open to implementing chained Consumer Price Index (CPI), which would alter the annual adjustment in how benefits are paid to Social Security recipients by using a less generous baseline of inflation.

"He has put forward a technical change, as part of a big deal," said Carney. "A technical change of CPI is possible as part of a big deal."

He added, however, that the president is opposed to raising the eligibility age of Medicare.

Progressives have opposed chained CPI because it would reduce the benefits that senior citizens receive.

The letter stated that while House Democrats are "committed to making the changes that will extend solvency for 75 years," Social Security has not negatively contributed to any of the country's fiscal problems so "it should not be on the bargaining table."

House Democrats reiterated in the letter their "vigorous opposition to cutting Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits in any final bill."

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama stressed the need for "modest reforms" to entitlements. This was met by a positive response by congressional Republicans who have long wanted changes to entitlement programs.

Ellison, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also told The Huffington Post on Tuesday after Obama's SOTU speech that he was concerned about possible changes to entitlements.

"I think there are things that can be done to reform social insurance, such as to engage in competitive bidding for prescription drug prices. But he didn't mention that. He just sort of raised the issue, which raised a lot of questions about what did he have in mind," said Ellison, who added that he liked the overall speech's focus on income inequality and concern for low-wage workers.

Lawmakers want to avoid a series of automatic deep spending cuts due to kick in March 1 unless Congress comes up with an $85-billion replacement plan.

Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.



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