Committee Co-Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) urged Republicans at the hearing to consider the efforts of bipartisan groups that wrote proposals in 2010 to reduce the deficit by about $4 trillion through a combination of cuts in entitlement programs (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) and discretionary spending, as well as revenue increases. Witnesses at the Nov. 1 hearing included the authors of the plans developed by National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and the Bipartisan Policy Center. Witnesses explained their positions on numerous deficit reduction strategies, including block granting Medicaid, imposing per capita caps, and requiring managed care for dual eligibles (those eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare). Visit deficitreduction.gov to view the archived webcast of the Nov 1 hearing.
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction appears to remain deeply divided over how much revenue a deficit reduction package should raise. Democrats are pushing for a net tax increase of $1.3 trillion over 10 years, while Republicans have opposed any measure that could be construed as raising taxes. The Committee held no closed door meetings last week – a development which is being widely interpreted as a standstill in the negotiations. Lack of discussion following the release two weeks ago of widely differing plans by the Committee’s Democratic and Republican Members does not bode well for the Committee to meet its November 23 deadline for submitting a plan. Meanwhile, some of the House’s most ardent defenders of Social Security have indicated a willingness to consider using a different measure of inflation to calculate cost of living adjustments (COLAs). The proposed measure, the “chained” consumer price index (CPI), would result in lower COLAs for people with disabilities and others who receive Social Security benefits.