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Debt Deal Emerging With Rightward Tilt

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center Chairman Charles Schumer (center) said Democrats would continue to push for revenue changes as part of a joint deficit committee that would be created by the emerging debt deal.

Some Democrats said the political consequences of the joint committee failing to act would hit the GOP more than on the president’s party. Talks on the details of a trigger, which several Senators and aides said was still being tweaked Sunday, included accommodations that would make it more palatable to Democrats.

Though the trigger would force cuts to Medicare, those cuts would come from Medicare providers rather than beneficiaries directly, Democratic Senators and aides said. And large defense cuts are intended to bring the GOP to the table to compromise.

Levin said that if the trigger affected Medicare benefits directly, very few Democrats could support it.

One advantage of such a trigger is that it would create a large array of powerful interests — from defense contractors to health care providers — who would have a huge stake in the passage of a second deficit reduction plan.

And there is also a political advantage to the trigger for Democrats as well. If Republicans opted to pull the trigger rather than agree to any tax increases, Democrats could blast them in the 2012 campaign as hurting seniors to protect millionaires and billionaires.

“That gives a political argument, but in the meantime, there’s a hell of a lot of damage done to average people in this country,” Levin said.

Some Democrats were still looking to sweeten the deal Sunday afternoon, with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) saying he hopes the package will extend the payroll tax cut for another year.

The joint deficit committee inspired fear in both parties. Some liberal groups think it has too much power to slash entitlements, while some conservatives are afraid it could be a way to force through a tax increase.

But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) dismissed such concerns. A tax increase would “never pass the House,” he said.

Reid, who conceived the committee idea, said “it will be essential to choose members with open minds willing to consider every option — even when those options are tough pills to swallow for both parties. Cooperation is the only way forward.”

Jessica Brady, Meredith Shiner and John Stanton contributed to this report.

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