House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday returned to the Capitol from a one-on-one meeting with President Barack Obama and reiterated her position that Medicare and Social Security are out of bounds as part of any deal to raise the nation’s debt limit.
Although the California Democrat said Thursday’s bipartisan meeting at the White House — and her own Friday meeting with Obama — has created “some level of optimism,” she remained adamant that Democrats will not agree to cuts.
Democrats “are as firm as ever on what I’ve been saying … no benefit cuts on Medicare and Social Security” and no using cost reforms for those programs to “pay for tax breaks for the richest Americans.”
But Pelosi demurred when asked about the kinds of reforms to either program she and her Caucus could accept.
“The dirty, rotten devil is in the dirty, rotten details. So we haven’t seen what that is, and when we see it, then we can speak better to it,” Pelosi said.
House Democrats emerged from a special Caucus meeting with more confidence that their demands on entitlements will be met mostly because Republicans will need their votes to pass a deal. Members were also doubtful a deal would soon emerge following Sunday’s bicameral meeting at the White House.
“People are reserving judgment, but they’re anxious,” said Rep. Peter Welch, who last month pushed for the House to consider raising the debt limit without accompanying spending cuts, a vote that ultimately failed.
The Vermont Democrat said Friday’s meeting was “a venting session,” but one that brought party Members together and fully behind Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who represent the House minority in the White House talks. That harmony comes just one day after liberals, particularly Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.), blasted party leaders for even considering accepting cuts to Medicare and Social Security in exchange for a debt-limit deal that includes revenue increases.
A Democratic aide said Members “were very fired up” at the meeting, including Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York, who, according to the aide, said the Caucus “will defend Medicare and go our own way from the White House if we have to.”