Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he has been told that raising the Medicare eligibility age is “off the table” in deficit talks, limiting the scope of entitlement reform.
“I was told that it is not on the table from the White House,” Durbin said, “raising the Medicare eligibility age.”
Durbin, the Senate’s second-ranking Democratic leader, made his comments to reporters after a leadership press conference on the "fiscal cliff" talks.
I'm not sure that Durbin is saying the Medicare age hike is off the table entirely, nor am I sure that he's saying the White House has taken it off the table. But at the very least, he's saying that the White House is not putting it on the table.
Given that Republicans refuse to put anything specific on the table, that means it's not on the table at all, and if it ever did get on the table, Republicans would have to be the ones to put it there. But Republicans are trying this weird negotiating strategy of not only demanding cuts in programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but they are also demanding that Democrats identify the cuts and therefore take responsibility for them. If Democrats were to do that, Republicans would obviously turn right around and attack Democrats for proposing the cuts that Republicans demanded.
In a way, it sounds like a clever ploy, but it would really only be clever if Democrats were dumb enough to not see through it. At the very least, Durbin's comments make it clear that Democrats aren't going to be that stupid this time around. If Republicans really want entitlement cuts to be on the table, they are going to have to step up to the plate and name those cuts. And if they're too scared to do that, then maybe the cuts aren't such a good idea to begin with. Which, especially when it comes to Medicare age hikes, they most certainly are not.
12:42 PM PT: More of Durbin's comments from the AP's report:
One of President Barack Obama's Senate allies said Thursday that an increase in the Medicare eligibility age is "no longer one of the items being considered by the White House" in negotiations with top Republicans on avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff.
But Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said he didn't get it directly from the president or the White House. However, he is regularly updated on the negotiations.