WASHINGTON (CBS NEWS) – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi refused to say if she has any red lines in so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations. However, in the next breath, she emphasized that she and fellow Democrats “object” to raising the eligibility age for Medicare.
“Don’t go there because it doesn’t produce money,” the top Democrat in the House said Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.” “Raising the retirement age does not get you that much money… so you’re doing a bad thing when it comes to seniors and you’re not achieving your goal” of reducing the deficit and growing the economy, Pelosi added.
President Obama indicated in an interview with ABC News Tuesday that he is open to raising the Medicare beneficiary age from 65 to 67.
“When you look at the evidence, it’s not clear that it actually saves a lot of money,” the president said. “But what I’ve said is let’s look at every avenue, because what is true is we need to strengthen Social Security, we need to strengthen Medicare for future generations, the current path is not sustainable because we’ve got an aging population and health care costs are shooting up so quickly.”
Pelosi said her Democratic caucus is asking key questions about components of any deal. “We’re saying, ‘does it work, is it fair or is it just a trophy for Republicans to take home?’”
The talks, however, are primarily between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio., leaving Democrats in the House hoping the president stands by their demands. “There’s a recognition he may need our votes,” Pelosi said. He would need Democrat’s votes if House Speaker John Boehner is unable to collect enough support among his Republican colleagues.
The two negotiators made their second attempt Tuesday at forging a deal. Each offered a second proposal. The president’s proposal cut the amount he wanted to raise taxes to $1.4 trillion from his first offer of $1.6 trillion. The Republican proposal is nearly identical to his first offer. Both offers were immediately rejected.
Republicans are insisting that cuts to entitlement programs must be part of any deal. But Pelosi said the Democrats have already agreed to cuts to Medicare, including more than $700 billion worth of savings passed in the health care law, or the Affordable Care Act. She also pointed to the president’s proposal he offered to the Republicans to reduce Medicare savings by nearly $400 billion.
She warned against making too many spending cuts, saying it would lead to a “blueprint for a second-rate nation.” Additionally, she called the $1.1 trillion in savings a “down payment” for broader negotiations she anticipates will take place next year. “Let’s do something significant now and then in the next stage we can address further entitlement reform as well as reform of the tax code,” Pelosi said.
Having a second stage of “fiscal cliff” talks to make broad budgetary reforms appears to be something that both Democrats and Republicans agree is likely.
“Just get it done and make corrections and expansions on it next year,” Pelosi added.
Despite there being only 20 days until the “fiscal cliff” deadline, Pelosi said she is “optimistic” about the possibilities of a deal. “I do think Mr. Boehner is a well intentioned person.”
Meanwhile, CBS News’ Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation,” said that despite the barbs continuing to be traded between the House speaker and the president, there is more happening behind the scenes.
“What is important is not what is said in public but what they are saying to each other behind the scenes,” Schieffer said.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)