Waashington President Barack Obama and the Senate’s top Republican both declared on Friday they want to take on the huge entitlement programs driving America’s long-term deficits — but their lines of attack differed sharply and that could lead to a showdown over government borrowing.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell warned that GOP senators would not vote to increase the federal debt limit unless Obama agreed to significant long-term budget savings that could include cost curbs for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, laying down a high-stakes marker just weeks before the limit is reached.
Obama said he also wants to tackle military spending and tax loopholes — issues on which he can expect Republican opposition.
The president said at a news conference that he would be ready to dig into the nation’s long-term financial problems after he and lawmakers reach a deal on funding the government through September. Republicans and Democrats have been debating a short-term funding plan for weeks but are still far apart.
Congress is expected to approve a three-week stopgap measure next week to buy more time for negotiations on a longer-term bill. The bipartisan measure contains $6.1 billion in budget savings by rescinding unneeded money from the Census Bureau and other accounts, killing programs proposed for termination by Obama and emptying accounts set aside for lawmakers’ earmarks.
The short-term spending plan involves day-to-day operating budgets — not major benefit programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that are seen by most budget experts as long-term contributors to the nation’s spiraling debt.