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Durbin Says Odds of Deficit Deal Less Than 50 Percent

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, said that "there has to be a negotiating position in which everything is on the table, including revenue." Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/Bloomberg

March 20 (Bloomberg) -- The odds of Congress passing a comprehensive deficit-reduction package that includes more tax revenue are less than 50 percent, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat said.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin blamed Republican refusal to consider raising more revenue for “stalling” progress toward any agreement to trim long-term Medicare spending in exchange for higher taxes.

As a result, odds for a deal “are less than 50 percent; things could change for the better,” Durbin told reporters today in Washington at a breakfast sponsored by the Wall Street Journal.

About $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts began taking effect March 1. Congress is voting this week on legislation to keep the budget operating through September, and both houses also plan to pass separate budget proposals.

Until Republicans agree to discuss using additional tax revenue toward deficit reduction, President Barack Obama won’t make more specific proposals to reduce long-term Medicare and Medicaid costs, Durbin said.

“There has to be a negotiating position” in which “everything is on the table, including revenue,” Durbin said.

Durbin said changing the formula for calculating cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients is a “real possibility, if it’s created in the right way,” Durbin said.

Durbin, a member of Obama’s deficit-reduction commission, said the president would be able to win Democratic support for changes in entitlement programs if Republicans agree to more tax revenue.

“If the president ends up giving years of solvency to Medicare and endorses it, many Democrats will come around” and join Obama in selling it to voters, Durbin said.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rowley in Washington at jarowley@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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