Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that he is happy to consider spending cuts and other ways to control the nation’s debt and isn’t going to require that tax increases be part of a budget deal with the GOP.
“The world is looking at us to do the right thing ... with some long-term goal to help our country,” the Nevada Democrat said during an afternoon news conference with other members of the Senate Democratic leadership team. “The Republicans have drawn a line in the sand [on taxes]. We have not done that.”
President Barack Obama called for a tax increase for higher-income earners as part of his long-term deficit reduction plan, which he outlined in a speech Wednesday.
Senate Democratic leaders came out forcefully against a provision in House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s fiscal 2012 budget resolution that would privatize Medicare for people now age 55 and younger.
Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer said the Wisconsin Republican’s Medicare proposal would “never, ever” pass the Senate. Democrats would be happy to take the Medicare issue and Obama’s call for a balanced approach to deficit reduction to the voters in 2012, the New York Democrat said.
“Now, finally, the Democrats have the high ground,” he said.
Speaker John Boehner will need Democratic votes to pass a debt limit increase, according to Schumer, who advised that the Ohio Republican forget his tea party members’ demands in order to cut a bipartisan deal.
Schumer and the other Democrats also said Ryan’s budget isn’t nearly as bold or courageous as it has been portrayed, instead calling it merely a distillation of Republican orthodoxy.
“It doesn’t gore a single Republican ox,” Schumer said.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, a member of the “gang of six” Senators trying to hash out a $4 trillion deficit-cutting package, said they still have several difficult issues to tackle. The Illinois Democrat said that at some point, the talks have to come to a conclusion or they risk becoming irrelevant.