KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Obama Backs ‘Gang Of Six’ Plan That Includes Medicare Cuts

The Senate's "Gang of Six" unveiled its 10-year, $3.7 trillion deficit reduction plan Tuesday and received a warm, bipartisan reception in the upper chamber. Meanwhile, in the House, GOP lawmakers, in a largely symbolic vote, passed their "cut, cap and balance" measure, which the White House has called "unacceptable." These two separate tracks lead media outlets to examine the prospects for compromise when Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs are among the issues very much at the heart of the debate.

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Backs Latest Bargain
President Barack Obama, in a last-ditch bid for a bipartisan "grand bargain" on the budget, threw his weight Tuesday behind a $3.7 trillion deficit-reduction plan unveiled by six Republican and Democratic senators. … The developments come against a backdrop of a dramatic shift in public attitudes toward the debt ceiling. … The senators backing the new proposal say 74 percent of the deficit reduction would come from spending cuts and 26 percent from new taxes. It would impose spending cuts and caps, and make changes in Social Security to make the program solvent over 75 years. It would direct congressional committees to reduce the deficit by specific levels in their areas of jurisdiction, likely including major entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid (Hook, Bendavid and Paletta, 7/20).

The Washington Post: New Debt Plan Gains Support In Senate; House Passes Balanced-Budget Measure
President Obama and lawmakers in both parties latched on to a new strategy for reducing the federal debt Tuesday, saying an emerging plan to save $3.7 trillion over the next decade could help break a political impasse over the debt limit and avert a U.S. default. The proposal, crafted by a bipartisan group of senators known as the "Gang of Six," calls for $500 billion in immediate savings and requires lawmakers in the coming months to cut agency spending, overhaul Social Security and Medicare, and rewrite the tax code to generate more than $1 trillion in fresh revenue (Montgomery and Helderman, 7/19).

The New York Times: Bipartisan Plan For Budget Deal Buoys President
The bipartisan proposal from the so-called Gang of Six senators to reduce deficits by nearly $4 trillion over the coming decade - and its warm reception from 43 other senators of both parties - renewed hopes for a deal days after talks between Mr. Obama and Congressional leaders had reached an impasse. … And Republicans increasingly are showing signs of splintering. Some conservatives within Congress and outside have become increasingly vocal in asserting that the party is at risk of putting ideological purity ahead of the chance for a major deficit reduction that includes substantial Democratic concessions, including cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending (Calmes and Steinhauer, 7/19).

Los Angeles Times: House Republicans Pass Symbolic Measure On Debt Ceiling
House Republican leaders pulled out all the stops Tuesday to pass legislation tying a debt ceiling increase to a tight, long-term cap on federal spending - a vote that appealed to conservatives but also underscored the GOP's difficulty in controlling its rambunctious majority. … Intensifying pressure on Republicans were new surveys showing a shift in public opinion against GOP positions on the debt ceiling. A majority of Americans prefer Obama's approach for combining more tax revenue with spending cuts in exchange for the debt ceiling vote, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. And a USA Today/Gallup poll showed more Americans think Obama, rather than the GOP, is acting in the country's best interests. Conservatives oppose more tax revenue. … Catering to conservatives at this moment could backfire on GOP leaders as they prepare newcomers for the inevitable compromise. Behind the scenes, Senate leaders and others are working on a backup plan that would allow Obama to raise the debt ceiling on his own in exchange for a much smaller package of spending cuts - a plan that conservatives dislike (Mascaro and Hennessey, 7/20).

Roll Call: 'Gang Of Six' May Be Too Late
Support surged in both parties Tuesday for a $3.7 trillion deficit reduction outline proposed by the "gang of six," but leaders warned that it might have come too late to have much effect before the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. The euphoria in the Senate was not matched in the House, where leaders and the rank and file remained laser-focused on their veto-bait Cut, Cap and Balance legislation that would condition a debt ceiling increase on passage of a controversial balanced budget constitutional amendment. The House passed that measure Tuesday evening on a largely party-line vote of 234 to 190 (Dennis, 7/20).

National Journal: How Far Can The 'Gang Of Six' Go?
As Senate leaders crafted a stop-gap plan to lift the debt ceiling and the cut, cap, and balance plan hurtled towards inevitable defeat in the Senate, a bipartisan fiscal framework from an all-but-moribund collaboration of six senators garnered rare praise from President Obama and enthusiasm from Senate Republicans. But does it matter? Few policymakers expect this framework from the Gang of Six to be the vehicle of a deal to lift the government borrowing ceiling, but some think that individual provisions could augment an agreement, or that the plan could provide a path forward if a short-term increase is enacted (Fernholz and Takersley, 7/20).

MarketWatch: House Approves Bill To Raise Debt Ceiling
The White House said the bill sets up an "unacceptable choice" between lifting the debt ceiling or passing a balanced budget amendment that would cut Medicare and Social Security too deeply. The Obama administration has repeatedly urged Congress to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2 or else the government will face default on its obligations. The plan from the Senate group known as the "Gang of Six" aims to immediately cut $500 billion in deficits; make Social Security solvent over 75 years; and reduce marginal income tax rates, among other things (Schroeder, 7/19).

ABC: Compromise Coming? Debt Talks Take Turn
The bipartisan talks, which had stalled this Spring after months, were at first intended to turn recommendations from the President's Fiscal Commission into legislation. Their presentation to fellow lawmakers today was significant for its attendance alone: 50 senators - both Republican and Democrats attended and were briefed by six senators - Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Mike Crapo of Idaho, and Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, North Dakota's Kent Conrad and Virginia's Mark Warner (Parkinson, Miller, Wolf, Dwyer, Bruce and Tapper, 7/20). 

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