Senator Johanns says developments in the debt ceiling negotiations encourage him.
President Obama has called Senate leaders to the White House to discuss his proposal to cut as much as $4 trillion from the annual budget over the next decade. Previous offers from the White House totaled about half that. The president’s latest proposal would include changes to Social Security and Medicare, which some fellow Democrats in Congress have insisted shouldn’t be part of the negotiations.
Johanns, a Republican, says he’s encouraged that concessions are being made that there is a problem with the long-term future of Social Security and that Medicare isn’t sustainable.
“We do have a problem with spending too much,” Johanns tells the Nebraska Radio Network. “And, so, now there’s some specific discussion that, gosh, we’ve got to look at those programs, we’ve got to look at how much we’re spending with a view of trying to get a handle on this debt.”
The offer from the White House to make cuts comes with a cost to Republicans. Obama wants concessions on taxes. In exchange for budget cuts, the president wants Republican support to raises taxes, perhaps by letting tax breaks expire for the wealthiest Americans. Those are scheduled to expire at the end of next year. Congressional Republicans have stated they won’t consider any proposed tax increases as part of a deal.
Still, Johanns hopes a deal can be reached.
“Hopefully, in the next few days this kind of crystalizes into a proposal that we can look at and actually have something concrete to deal with,” Johanns says.
The August 2nd deadline looms over all negotiations. At stake is convincing enough members of Congress that sufficient efforts have been made to reduce the nation’s debt so that they will vote to raise the debt ceiling higher than its current limit of $14.3 trillion. The nation reached the limit in May. The Treasury Department has stated that if Congress doesn’t raise the limit, the country will begin to default on its obligations for the first time ever.
Johanns says reaching a deal is critical to the nation’s finances.
“But at the end of the day, it’s not good for anybody that you literally would send a message to the world that you can’t put the dynamics together to get a sufficient number of votes on the debt ceiling,” according to Johanns. “And, that would be a very negative message.”