Posted Thursday, May 12, 2011, at 11:45 AM
Speaker of the House John Boehner was fairly slippery when taking questions about the debt limit vote today. While he repeated what he'd said on Monday -- that he wants cuts commensurate with the amount the debt ceiling is raised by -- he didn't even say what time frame he wanted to see for the cuts.
"It's a little too early," said Boehner. "I'm not going to lock myself into that kind of time frame. It's time to bend the cost curve."
But he did hint, oh-so-briefly, at bringing up one of the issues that's proved thorny for Republicans since the introduction of Paul Ryan's budget. That would be entitlement reform.
"There are going to have to be budget process reforms," said Boehner, speaking dismissively of the "spending caps" proposed by Bob Corker and Claire McCaskill. "I won't tie myself down in terms of what those are. I don't want phony caps, I don't want phony targets. All the gimmicks that have been used in the past have never worked. Congress has found a way to wiggle out of all of them."
What to do, then, if spending caps were just gimmickry?
"The only way to do this is the right way," said Boehner, "and that's to go in and have real program changes that put these entitlement programs on a much stronger foundation , where they can [be] preserved for the tens of millions of Americans who count on them."
This is actually a repetition of what Boehner said in his economic speech.
We urgently need to enact reforms that will protect and preserve critical programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing, as some propose, that guarantees benefit cuts for seniors. Let me repeat that, because it’s a crucial point that is too often overlooked. If we do nothing, seniors’ benefits will be cut.
And to those who contend that the economy is too weak to take on the challenge of entitlement reform -- I would simply say, you've got it backwards. The truth is that making fundamental reforms to these programs would be good for the economy -- and good for the next generation.
It's possible to make changes in a way that will ensure future beneficiaries will have access to the same kinds of options as Members of Congress currently have. The budget put forth by our Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, accomplishes this.
The spending cap is something Democrats can put up with. This? Less so.