As mentioned in my previous post, on February 23rd, there will be a "fiscal responsibility summit" convened by Jim Cooper and other Blue Dogs. One of the main goals of the summit is to create a commission that will provide non-amendable, non-filibusterable legislation that will cut Social Security and Medicare:
At the moment, discussions are focused on whether to name a special panel to make the difficult decisions that would be required to right the nation's finances. Key senators in both parties are backing a plan put forward by Conrad and the Budget Committee's senior Republican, Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), that would create a task force of lawmakers and administration officials. The task force would wrestle with the details of Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and the tax code, and deliver a reform plan to Congress for a vote later this year.
Under the proposal, the task force's recommendations could not be amended; the House and Senate would be required to accept or reject them without changes or additions, similar to the process lawmakers use to close military bases.
On February 2nd, the Washington Post reported that President Obama was opposed to such a commission:
Obama specifically mentioned the Gregg-Conrad proposal when he met with Senate Republicans last week. Several senators told him they would like to see such a task force created as part of the economic stimulus bill, saying the promise of a fiscal reckoning would make the massive measure easier to swallow.
But Obama "was not supportive" of that idea, said Gregg, whom Obama may tap to join the administration as Commerce secretary. "I think they think it's just too big a lift for the stimulus package."
Today, however, the Wall Street journal is reporting that President Obama is in favor of such a commission (more in the extended entry):
The president met with 44 fiscally conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats this week and gave a nod to legislation that would set up commissions to deal with long-term deficit strains. The commissions would then present plans to Congress for an up-or-down vote.
"We feel like we've found a partner in the White House," said Rep. Charlie Melancon (D., La.), a Blue Dog co-chairman.
There are two possibilities here. First, President Obama changed his position on the commission between February 2nd and last week. Second, either the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post is incorrect, and Obama is either still opposed to the commission or was always in favor of it.
I don't know which one is the case, Jane Hamsher has a must-read article today on the subject. She points to a possible Obama administration embrace of the Conrad-Gregg commission outlined above, but also with favoring the "Diamond-Orszag plan for reforming Social Security, which calls for raising the retirement age and cutting benefits."
Now, I share both Jane and David's incredulity that the Obama administration would embrace such a proposal, given that President Obama campaigned on eliminating the Social Security cap, not on cutting benefits or raising the retirement age. Further, since Jane's article is based on reporting from the National Review and the Wall Street Journal, perhaps it is all wishful thinking from conservatives. However, even if it is just wishful thinking from conservatives, we still need to take it seriously. People like Jim Cooper do, in fact, want to cut Social Security and Medicare. They are also extracting some concessions from the Obama administration, such as the "fiscal responsibility summit." We will find out more on February 23rd, and then February 26th, but as the budget fight looms, don't discount the possibility that Social Security could actually be cut even under a Democratic trifecta.