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Hullabaloo


Sunday, February 20, 2011

 
Carving Up The Sacrificial Lamb

by digby


Here's the latest on the bipartisan closed door negotiations to further sacrifice the average American worker on the alter of the deficit Gods.



Top Senate Democrats tried to scotch efforts by Majority Whip Richard Durbin to include Social Security in comprehensive deficit-reduction negotiations, illustrating the challenge facing the bipartisan talks.

The discussion occurred during a closed-door White House meeting this week among negotiators including Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, a key lieutenant.

President Barack Obama attended, although his contribution to the conversation couldn't be learned. Previously, the administration has offered general support for bipartisan debt-reduction talks.

The confrontation, as well as a flare-up on the right over taxes, illustrates the difficulty of reaching a deal on deficit-control legislation, and how fear of upsetting the party line on particular policies could trump the issue of controlling the debt.
[...]
Democratic interest groups have been gearing up for a fight on Social Security, and Messrs. Schumer and Reid don’t want to get in the way. On Friday, Edward Coyle, executive director of the liberal Alliance for Retired Americans, accused House Republicans of threatening Social Security with the spending cuts they are pressing for the current fiscal year. But negotiators appear to be holding firm.

“If Sen. Schumer is serious about fighting to protect Social Security from harmful cuts, he can join the large group of Members already doing that,” said a Senate official involved in the bipartisan negotiations. “But if he’s trying to use Social Security as an excuse to do nothing to reduce the deficit, he’s going to be pretty lonely.”

A spokesman for Mr. Schumer, Brian Fallon, said the senator “believes it is vital to rein in the deficit, but Social Security is not the nub of the problem, and focusing on it distracts from any serious effort to bring the budget into balance.”

The White House meeting Wednesday took place before The Wall Street Journal published an article Thursday detailing the Senate negotiations. The substance of the talks somewhat eased the concern of the Democratic leaders about Social Security, and gave Sen. Durbin some room to press forward, though without any commitment of support.

Aides familiar with the talks say Democratic leaders are willing to let them play out. A framework for deficit-cutting legislation could be circulated to a broader group of senators when they return early next month after a Presidents Day recess.

According to aides familiar with the bipartisan talks, Social Security is being treated gingerly. Under one proposal, lawmakers would be given two years to draft an overhaul to put the system on sounder financial footing. If that effort fails, Congress would be required to vote on the presidential debt commission’s Social Security plan, which would raise the amount of income subject to Social Security taxes, gradually raise the retirement age and slow the annual growth of benefits.

Under the initial discussions, negotiators don’t appear to be inclined to include penalties, should the Senate vote down any changes to Social Security.


That's cute.

Similar tensions are playing out on the right. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group, wrote to the three main Republican negotiators, Sens. Coburn, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Mike Crapo of Idaho, calling the putative deal a violation of the group’s “no new taxes” pledge, which most Republican lawmakers have signed.

“There’s no real bill to talk about with a tax increase,” Mr. Norquist said of the deficit negotiations Friday.


The Senators blustered about their oath to the constitution, but they got the message.(And no it is not adequate to "end" some tax breaks in exchange for benefits cuts. Corporations and the wealthy hire very expensive lobbyists and lawyers to insure that they will find new ways to protect their wealth. Ending an arcane tax break is never any guarantee that revenues will actually rise.)

The President's position wasn't reported, but Durbin has often been his proxy in previous legislative battles, so it wouldn't be surprising for him to be working from the White House side in this. I would guess that certain Senators believe he is anyway.


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