Coburn Says Medicare, Medicaid Must Be Part of Budget Talks

Senator Tom Coburn
Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma. Photographer: Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg

Medicare and Medicaid programs must be part of the U.S. effort to reduce the budget deficit, Senator Tom Coburn said.

“You can’t have Medicare out of the equation,” Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and member of the Senate Budget Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program broadcast today. “You can’t have Medicaid out of the equation. To lead on this issue and create a false predicate that says we can solve our problems without addressing our entitlements hurts the country.”

As part of the debate on government spending, which includes completing a 2012 budget, President Barack Obama has offered the outlines of a plan to reduce the debt by $4 trillion over 12 years through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, has proposed cutting spending by $6 trillion over a decade in part by privatizing Medicare and capping Medicaid spending. Republicans reject Obama’s push for tax increases on the wealthiest Americans to help reduce debt.

Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat and chairman of the budget committee, said on “Meet the Press” that the U.S. is “headed for a fiscal cliff” if it doesn’t address the deficit. Conrad and Coburn are part of the bipartisan “Gang of Six” seeking a budget compromise.

Debt Limit

Conrad said he wouldn’t support raising the government’s $14.3 trillion debt limit for more than a year “without a plan or a proposal or process in place to deal with the debt.” He said he would vote for a short-term extension.

Congress is facing a vote as early as next month on raising the debt ceiling. The Treasury Department projects that it will hit the cap on May 16, though it could use emergency measures to avoid default until about July 8.

Obama and members of his economic team have said that failure to approve an increase could have catastrophic consequences for the U.S. economy and financial markets.

Senators Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, and Mark Kirk, a Republican, presented opposing views on the debt ceiling while appearing today on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

Blumenthal, from Connecticut, said “unequivocally yes” the limit should be raised. Failure to do so “would be catastrophic for our economy.”

Kirk, from Illinois, said he wouldn’t vote for it “unless we have comprehensive, dramatic, effective and broad-based cuts” to spending, including on entitlements. “Without that, we should not send a blank check to the administration.”

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