Financial Times: GOP Will Cling to Entitlement Reform in Fiscal Cliff Standoff

Tuesday, 27 Nov 2012 08:01 AM

By John Morgan

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Republicans will hold out for structural changes to government social programs in any deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, the Financial Times predicted.

A growing list of GOP leaders have toned down their opposition to higher taxes and seem resigned to President Barack Obama’s demand for increased revenues in any bipartisan deal. But they may only go so far to reach an accord.

“Republicans’ willingness to support additional revenue via tax reform is conditional on it being accompanied by significant entitlement reforms that begin to address the problem of the debt,” an aide to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told the Times.

Editor's Note: 'It’s Curtains for the US' — Hear Unapologetic Warning from Prophetic Economist.

“Without such spending controls, any plan to avert the fiscal cliff is not a balanced approach.”

Republican calls for significant spending reform is a big wrinkle ahead of a deal due to brisk resistance from Democrats and their backers at labor unions and other liberal groups.

Boehner has not yet laid out specifics on proposed entitlement cutbacks for such programs as Social Security and Medicare, but the aide said there were a “variety of ways in which this can be accomplished.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on ABC’s “This Week” that entitlements must be trimmed “before they bankrupt the country,” and that he was willing to vote for higher taxes in exchange for higher age eligibility and means testing for both entitlements.

But on the same program, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., rejected any changes to Social Security as part of the deal, and also spoke against raising the Medicare eligibility age because of his concern that “there will be gaps in coverage or coverage that’s way too expensive for seniors to purchase.”

Separately, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a member of the Senate Banking Committee, likewise said on CBS’s “This Morning” that he is “not obligated” to follow earlier pledges not to raise taxes, but he also called for real entitlement and tax reform as a fiscal cliff deal condition.

In a widely quoted Sunday op-ed piece in The Washington Post, Corker dismissed talk in Washington of a piecemeal, temporary new deal to meet the Dec. 31 fiscal cliff deadline.

“Kicking the can down the road — setting up a process for token deficit reduction today with the promise of more reforms later — is misguided and irresponsible and shows a total lack of courage,” Corker wrote.

Marc Thiessen, a weekly opinion columnist for The Washington Post, agreed.

“Passing a down payment now could very well doom the chances for major tax and spending reforms next year,” he wrote.

“Message to the GOP: A down payment means the death of tax reform.”

Editor's Note: 'It’s Curtains for the US' — Hear Unapologetic Warning from Prophetic Economist.

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