Here are some of the blows to ordinary people Republicans would be willing to trade to get rid of the sequester: raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. Changes to Medicare premiums. "Reforming" federal pension programs. Chained CPI. Changes to Medicaid. Get the picture?
The list of possible cuts to replace the sequester being bandied about among GOP leadership aides serves to highlight the distance between the two sides. All of these policies would be difficult for Obama to accept without a hefty revenue number.So while the acknowledgement that new revenue would have to be a part of any deal is starting to emerge, Republicans still have a lot of posturing and hostage-taking to do before they can start to agree to minuscule revenue increases in exchange for massive cuts. And talk about highlighting the differences between the two sides:
Obama said he needs to close loopholes as part of a short-term or long-term sequester replacement. And House Republicans are extraordinarily hesitant to do anything that looks like raising taxes. But privately, GOP aides concede that if they get a spending-cut heavy proposal, they could accept some loophole closures to satisfy Democrats.
At a closed-door retreat in Annapolis, Md., this week, Senate Democratic leaders struck a populist tone. They suggested they could rally public support for a measure that would temporarily suspend the cuts by limiting tax breaks for oil and gas exploration, reducing the tax advantages for wealthy private-equity employees who pay a lower 20 percent capital gains rate on much of their income, and ending tax deductions for the cost of moving business functions overseas.Of course, the proposal from the Congressional Progressive Caucus would actually create jobs while reducing the deficit, but since Democratic leadership isn't going to do anything crazy like fight for that, those Senate proposals are at least a good counterpoint to the Cut! Cut! Cut! of Republicans, and should draw lots of public support. So please, Senate Democrats, get out ahead of Republicans and really push these ideas. Don't let John Boehner's posturing and bluffing define the public debate.