KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Officials Stake Out Positions As Debt Deadline Looms

The New York Times: In Washington, A Push For A Plan To Raise The Debt Limit
As lawmakers pushed on Sunday to devise a plan to raise the debt limit and keep the government from risking default, Democrats and Republicans spent the morning offering reassurances and staking out their positions. Administration officials and lawmakers are expected to meet throughout the day to consider plans for reducing the deficit ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline for raising the debt limit. Despite the impasse over major elements of a deficit reduction deal, leaders in both parties said they were determined to make a new compromise public on Sunday afternoon before the opening of financial markets in Asia to reassure investors there (Newman, 7/24). 

The Washington Post: Boehner Hints At A Unilateral Debt Plan; Geithner Shoots Down Short-Term Options
First, lawmakers would vote on a package to cut agency spending by as much as $1 trillion over the next decade and raise the debt limit, currently set at $14.3 trillion, by the same amount. That would give Geithner enough borrowing authority to cover the nation's bills through the end of this year. Then Congress would go to work to produce as much as $3 trillion in additional savings through an overhaul of the tax code and major changes to Social Security and Medicare, the biggest drivers of federal spending. To identify those savings, Congress would create a new bipartisan debt-reduction committee comprising 12 lawmakers from both the House and Senate, an idea offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). But the two sides were still fighting over how to force Congress to produce the second round of savings. Boehner wants to set another debt-limit vote early next year, while Democrats are insisting on a plan that would postpone another debt-limit showdown until after the 2012 presidential election (Montgomery, 7/24).

Wall Street Journal: Geithner Calls Two-Stage Rise Of Debt Ceiling 'Nonstarter'
The latest Republican proposal would raise the debt limit in two phases, with a smaller increase of about $1 trillion immediately, which would carry the government through the end of this year, matched by a similar amount of spending cuts. The second increase would depend on a deficit-reduction commission's recommendations.The commission would recommend a set of changes to safety-net programs and a tax overhaul in hopes of closing the deficit by as much as another $3 trillion. Once that package was adopted, the debt ceiling would be raised again in January 2012 (Tomson, 7/24). 

The Hill: Pelosi Sees Entitlement And Tax Reform Delayed
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Saturday night that congressional leaders are considering a two-tiered approach to raising the debt ceiling and reducing the nation's long-term budget deficit. ... Pelosi said the leaders are looking at a two-tiered approach, which would likely combine immediate spending cuts while creating a process for Congress to enact entitlement and tax reforms over the next several months. She hinted, however, that the revenue would come in the second "tier" of the process. "One option is to do something in two tiers, and I don't think we can accomplish what we need to do in deficit reduction without revenues," Pelosi said (Berman, 7/24).

The Washington Post: Debt Talks Show Breakdown In Governing
Republican opposition to tax increases is an article of faith for the party, but many GOP lawmakers, particularly the freshman who came in with the support of the tea party movement, are more rigidly opposed than ever. Similarly, many Democrats, who have won elections attacking Republicans over Social Security and Medicare, remain strongly opposed to cuts in those programs. Arguments over taxes and entitlements have animated budget fights going back decades. In most cases, through compromise, the two sides resolved their differences, at least for a time. That happened in the 1980s and the 1990s. But now, in a period of partisanship as intense as it has been in many years, the efforts to resolve the current impasse have stretched the system to the limit (Balz, 7/23). 

NPR: Debt Talks Impasse Leads To Market Fears
The opening of financial markets in East Asia is causing anxiety in official Washington and beyond. The concern is that a Friday night breakdown in talks between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on raising the debt ceiling may have negative repercussions when trading gets under way (Welna, 7/24).

Politico: Right Dominates Debt Ceiling Ad War
While the battle over raising the debt ceiling plays out in Washington, conservative groups are outspending liberal ones in the effort to frame the issue through a sharply-edged media campaign that some Democrats worry could put them at a serious disadvantage headed into the 2012 elections. ... While the advocacy groups AARP and the Coalition to Protect America's Health Care (comprising hospital associations and medical colleges) have been spending millions of dollars on television ads opposing Republican proposals to reduce Medicare and Social Security, their ads generally haven't singled out the Republican Party or its members, nor have they praised Democrats. In fact, at times, they've seemed to echo Republican themes about wasteful spending (Vogel, 7/24). 

See earlier coverage of the breakup of talks between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on Kaiser Health News.

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