House Republicans emerged from a rare meeting with Obama on Wednesday afternoon saying he assured them he was serious about cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare in order to reduce the long-term deficit.Of course, what he also told them is that he wants revenue to go along with those cuts, which Republicans continue to not be able to stomach. Which is very good news for the nation's retirees. No, they're still insisting that Obama convince fellow Democrats to give Republicans everything they want. That, John Boehner says, will be the real test of leadership: whether Obama can get his entire party to capitulate on the cuts that will destroy them politically.
“It was a really great first step,” said Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI). “He did express a willingness to give on entitlements.”
“He focused a lot on entitlements,” said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL).
Greg Sargent writes about this dynamic, examining the strategy and end goals of the Republicans and the White House. The White House thinks they can win over a few House members and more Senate Republicans to strike a deal that will bring over enough Republicans to pass it. Republicans, on the other hand, think that Obama will offer a budget in April with serious entitlement cuts and that his dropping approval number (presumably sequester fall-out) will force Democrats to accept them, and deeper spending cuts. That'll make some Republicans, enough to get a grand bargain passed, relent on some revenue, but the Democrats will have passed cuts Social Security and Medicare, and will be the ones blamed for them since they offered them up.
It's an obvious and not-so devious trap, one that congressional Democrats can dismantle. They need to stand with Sen. Bernie Sanders in sending the message loud and clear that they're not going to be down with the role either Obama or the Republicans envision for them. They need to stand against any benefits cuts in Social Security and Medicare.