In Debt Talks, Democrats Want Everything On the Table…Except the Entitlements They've Taken Off the Table


The table.

Last week, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters that when it came to a debt ceiling, Democrats were open to anything. "Democrats have said that everything needs to be on the table and have put everything on the table," he said, according to The Hill. So Democrats are open to anything? Not quite.

Democratic Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, the only Democrat who outranks Hoyer in the House, recently made it clear that messing around with entitlements in a way that directly affected benefits wasn't an option. "We must protect Medicare and Social Security," she said. "We will not support cuts." Okay then!

And now Hoyer has, ah, clarified his position in order to line up with his boss. Yesterday, he declared that Democratic leadership in the House has "made it very clear that we have no intention of supporting [a bill] that cuts beneficiaries' benefits." Even when those benefits are unsustainable? Medicare is estimated to be insolvent by 2024, perhaps sooner. It's also the biggest long-term driver of America's debt, which would one might think would make it a big target for reform in any deal designed to make an impact on the country's mounting debt. But House Democrats, while saying everything needs to be on the table, and claiming they have in fact put everything on the table, have simultaneously gone out of their way to highlight their opposition to any substantial scaling back of the biggest single contributor to the long-term growth of the federal debt. 

House Republicans, it should be said, aren't exactly lining up to overhaul entitlements like Medicare either: The supposedly radical cut, cap, and balance plan that passed in the House yesterday specifically exempted Medicare and Social Security from its proposed spending limits.