Representative Keith Ellison and other members of Congress rally outside the US Capitol against cuts to social insurance programs on October 3, 2013. Photo by George Zornick.
We’ve seen this movie before: Republicans force a showdown in Congress over funding the government, the debt ceiling or, in the present case, both. Then a “grand bargain” is proposed to solve the impasse—one that includes serious reductions to social insurance programs.
That’s just how the GOP would like the current drama to play out. Wednesday, National Review’s Robert Costa reported that House Speaker John Boehner and Representative Paul Ryan are rallying nervous Republicans by telling them that while Obamacare may not end up getting defunded, GOP leadership is cooking up another big budget deal that includes cuts to the safety net so cherished by many conservative members. “It’s the return of the grand bargain,” one member told Costa. “Ryan is selling this to everybody; he’s getting back to his sweet spot,” said another.
In particular, Costa mentioned Chained CPI as one component of the emerging proposal. This, you may recall, is a cut to Social Security benefits dressed up as a ostensibly “more accurate” recalibration of the formula used to adjust benefits to inflation. (It’s not.)
Democrats, from the White House to Congress, are taking a hard line so far. President Obama reiterated this morning that he will not abide GOP hostage-taking, and wants a clean resolution to reopen the government and a clean increase of the debt ceiling. Senate majority leader Harry Reid and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi are on the same page.
This has left some progressives a little nervous—a debt-ceiling increase with the promise of a grand bargain and a grand bargain that includes a debt-ceiling increase is a distinction without much difference, except the notable removal of some leverage from the GOP side. And President Obama has repeatedly proposed Chained CPI in the past, and it would clearly be in play once during any broad discussions of a deficit reduction package.
Thursday morning, more than twenty liberal members of the House gathered outside the US Capitol, along with a large group of retirees and other activists. The message was simple: they will not support cuts to Social Security or other safety net programs.