Considerably more sensitive is a suggested increase in the age of eligibility for Medicare.
During the recent round of meetings, Republicans asked Obama if he would support it, and he sidestepped, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing private conversations.
It’s another idea that the president supported once before, when he was negotiating with Boehner, and one that many congressional Democrats oppose strenuously.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who says she is “agnostic” on a change in the cost of living formula, recently wrote that an increase in the Medicare eligibility age above 65 is “a reflection of the broader Republican plan: an assault on the middle class, seniors and our future.”
On the other side of the divide, Obama and Democrats want Republicans to agree to higher taxes as part of any deal that wrings savings from Medicare. That was a tough sell before Jan. 1, the date Congress raised rates on upper-income taxpayers with votes of some Republicans and the acquiescence of others.
It will be an even tougher one now.
“Taking more money from hard-working families to fuel more spending in Washington is not going to solve our budget crisis,” Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan told the House recently as he advocated for the Republican budget that he wrote.
This time, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina provided the Democratic rebuttal.
“There are many words that can be used to describe the Ryan budget,” he told the House. “But the one word that cannot be used is ‘balanced.”’
EDITOR’S NOTE — David Espo is AP’s chief congressional correspondent.