Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, noted that the president had said repeatedly last winter that Congress should pass tax items they agreed on and leave others for later.
Seeking to turn the tables, he asked Obama why the White House wouldn’t now agree to pass legislation to slow the growth of cost-of-living increases in Social Security and other benefit programs and increase Medicare fees for wealthier seniors, steps Obama has backed in the past.
Obama replied that Republicans would have to agree to higher taxes first, according to several lawmakers present.
Even then, it was clear when he met with Senate Democrats that Obama he would face resistance from his allies in Congress.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who sides with Democrats, said he and Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa spoke out strongly against changes in calculating cost-of-living increases.
“It would make major cuts in Social Security benefits ... and also very significant cuts for disabled veterans,” Sanders said in a telephone interview.
“I do not believe that the American people want to balance the budget on the backs of disabled veterans or widows who lost their husbands in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Associated Press writers Donna Cassata and Charles Babington contributed to this report.