Sunday, a White House official stated that President Barack Obama again raised the problem of cuts in spheres such as Medicare and Social Security as a way out of damaging budget cuts, as both sides in Washington tried to limit a fiscal crisis that may soon hit millions of Americans.
The President’s actions mean that he might be ready to explore a compromise to end automatic spending cuts that began late Friday.
Obama mentioned that he wants to discuss the reforming these entitlement programs with lawmakers from both parties on Saturday afternoon.
Lately, some rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans have been sending signals that they are willing to compromise to end a two-year-old deadlock over tax and entitlement reforms.
“Democrats know we have to do entitlement reforms and Republicans know they have to do revenues (increases),” said liberal Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland.
On Sunday, White House senior economic official Gene Sperling said: “He’s reaching out to Democrats who understand we have to make serious progress on long-term entitlement reform.
“And Republicans who realize that if we had that type of entitlement reform, they’d be willing to have tax reform that raises revenues to lower the deficit.”
Republicans believe that the only way to overcome budget deficits is to slow down the cost of sprawling social safety net programs.
These include the Social Security retirement program and Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs for the elderly, disabled and poor that are becoming more expensive as a large segment of the U.S. population hits retirement age.
Even though Obama has proposed to make some savings on these programs, he has insisted that significant new tax revenues be part of the deficit-reduction formula. Republicans in their turn reject the idea so far.
As the budget battles rage on in Washington, sources said Obama plans to nominate on Monday Sylvia Mathews Burwell to head to White House Office of Management and Budget.
A veteran of the Bill Clinton White House, Burwell is president of the Walmart Foundation, which handles the corporation’s charitable efforts.
Obama’s mention of entitlement reform may help bring Republicans to the table to halt the cuts.
Republican leaders also made soothing noises on Sunday about the need to avoid a government shutdown on March 27, when funding runs out for most federal programs.
“It’s time for the president and Senate Democrats to get serious about the long-term spending problem that we have,” Boehner said.
In the meantime, both Democrats and Republicans were hoping to win the immediate fight over the automatic spending cuts so that they are best positioned in any upcoming battles over long-term budget deficits, reports Reuters.
“We’re willing to talk to him (Obama) about reconfiguring the same amount of spending reduction over the next six months,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on CNN.
“The American people look at this and say: ‘Gee, I’ve had to cut my budget more than this,’ – probably on numerous occasions over the last four years because we’ve had such a tepid economy now for four long years.”