Entitlement reform a struggle for GOPJake Sherman, Politico
House Republicans were giddy when President Barack Obama took a pass on entitlement reform in his 2012 budget, ripping him for punting on the future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
But when they’re pressed for answers about what needs to happen on entitlements, Republicans are punting right back, saying the president needs to take the lead and come up with his own ideas
Before stating their own policy prescriptions, no fewer than a dozen GOP lawmakers and aides Wednesday said that it is Obama’s responsibility to put forth ideas on entitlement reform.“We need his leadership,” Ways and Means Republican Rep. Wally Herger (Calif.) said. “If it’s something this big to get through, it’s very important for the president to lead.”
Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican who sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the “president looks very small if he doesn’t lead on this issue.” Rep. Patrick Tiberi, an Ohio Republican cozy with Speaker John Boehner, said “you can’t have a big issue that impacts Americans without presidential leadership.” And Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), the president of the anti-Obama freshman class, said “quite honestly, he has a responsibility to America” to put forth his ideas and lead. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) accused Obama is “doing the Clinton model of flirting around the edges of the pool with hopes Republicans jump in, then accusing them of splashing the water.”
And one senior GOP aide said Obama saying he’s concerned about entitlements without acting is like Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers “saying we’re going to win the Super Bowl, but I’m not going to play.”
The dodging on specifics when it comes to the third rail of American politics reflects of a GOP majority that recognizes that it will be near impossible to pass sweeping overhaul to the nation’s gigantic entitlement problems without a willing party in the White House to hash out some plans.
But the White House appearing hesitant to tackle entitlements also gives the GOP an out. A leadership aide said that Republicans won’t spend “two years having a one-way conversation” on entitlements. Simply, they wont waste their time without a willing partner willing to find common ground.
But talking to Republicans, common ground won’t be easy. Scalise, whose committee would be integral in reforming Medicare and Medicaid, said increasing taxes will not be on the table.
“The president has to go back to the table to look at his proposals to increase taxes,” Scalise said.
But in these early stages, as Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) works at crafting a budget, a few common ideas have emerged.