KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Debt Limit Plan Draws Future Battle Lines On Entitlement Spending

House Republican leaders believe their leverage in forcing budget cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other programs will be greater in the next battles.

The Washington Post: Obama 'Will Not Oppose' House GOP Plan To Suspend Debt Limit Until May
The measure -- set for a vote Wednesday in the House -- would not resolve the dispute over how to control the national debt. … Balancing the budget over the next decade, however, is likely to require extraordinarily deep cuts in spending that go even further than reductions in previous House budgets. In the past, Ryan has targeted spending on health care for the poor and other social safety net programs, such as food stamps and aid for college tuition. On Monday, Obama vowed in his Inauguration Day speech to defend those programs (Montgomery and Helderman, 1/22).

The New York Times: Obama Speech Leaves GOP Stark Choices
Their decision shows that even among some staunch conservatives, Mr. Obama's inauguration could be ushering in a more pragmatic tone -- if not necessarily a shift in beliefs. From the stimulus to the health care law to showdowns over taxes and spending, Republicans have often found that their uncompromising stands simply left them on the sidelines, unable to have an impact on legislation and unable to alter it much once it passed. Even in the budget impasses that forced spending cuts sought by conservatives, the Republicans' ultimate goals -- changes to entitlement programs and the tax code -- have been out of reach. Now, some in the party say, it is time to take a different tack (Weisman, 1/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Would Accept Stopgap Debt Extension
But a debt-limit extension would defuse only one of the fiscal land mines scattered over the next several months. Both parties say the government needs to do more to reduce the deficit, but they remain far apart on how to do that. Republican leaders suggested Tuesday they will author a deficit-reduction plan that would balance the budget within 10 years. Last year's House budget plan, by contrast, wouldn't have led to a balanced budget until about 2040, according the Congressional Budget Office. White House officials remain opposed to many of the structural changes to Medicare and Social Security that Republicans have proposed, and President Barack Obama wants tax increases to be part of any agreement (Paletta and Hook, 1/22).

Los Angeles Times: House GOP Lines Up Debt Ceiling Vote; White House Will Not Oppose
Boehner and his leadership team emerged with the new strategy after a private retreat last week with lawmakers. They believe their leverage in forcing budget cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other domestic programs will be greater on the next battles, and want to push the politically and economically risky debt ceiling debate off to pursue these next pressure points (Mascaro, 1/22).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House Republicans Seek To Defuse Debt Crisis With Vote On 3-Month Increase In Borrowing Limit
But Republicans and Obama now appear on a collision course over how to replace the across-the-board cuts. … "The sequester is arbitrary, but the fact is that when the sequester goes into effect ... it will have a pretty dramatic effect of people's attitudes here in Washington, and they may get serious about cuts to the mandatory side of the spending equation," Boehner said, referring to benefit programs like Medicare and food stamps, whose budgets essentially run on autopilot (1/22).

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