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Worried and Waiting on the Hill

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Rep. Mike Pompeo and other Republicans assailed President Barack Obama on Thursday for what they called his “scare tactic” of saying that Social Security and Medicare payments could be affected if the nation defaults on its debt.

Updated: 6:47 p.m.

The debt limit issue dominated conversations on Capitol Hill on Thursday, but with no apparent movement toward an agreement on raising the nation’s borrowing capacity.

A group of conservative Republicans sent President Barack Obama a letter urging him to ensure that Social Security, Medicare and service member payments are made even if the country defaults on its debt Aug. 2, while also paying off the interest on that debt.

But like much of the fight over the debt limit, the news conference announcing the letter quickly devolved into attacks on Obama. Although Rep. Robert Aderholt said he and his colleagues were “hopeful that some agreement can be reached,” he also accused Obama of “misleading the public” by “telling seniors that there won’t be enough money in the federal coffers” to make their Social Security and Medicare payments. The Alabama Republican called the president’s warning “a scare tactic that won’t benefit the negotiations.”

Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) said, “What the president is resorting to is scaring America’s seniors,” while Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said, “You have a ‘scarer in chief’ who goes out and frightens seniors with wrong information.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) engaged in cross-Dome combat over the debt ceiling negotiations before heading to the White House for another round of talks Thursday afternoon.

“Cantor has shown he shouldn’t be at the table, and Republicans agree he shouldn’t be at the table,” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday, the day after Cantor complained to the media about being dressed down by Obama at a tense negotiation session.

“It’s not surprising that Harry Reid doesn’t want to cut spending and wants to raise taxes with so many Americans out of work,” Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring said. “This isn’t a question about personalities — Eric, President Obama or Harry Reid — it’s about doing what is right for the country and trying to find a productive solution that finally demonstrates Washington is serious about America’s fiscal health.”

Outside Capitol Hill, groups sought Thursday to protect their interests in the negotiations. A coalition of 10 cancer research, treatment and patient organizations wrote a letter to Congressional leaders and Obama urging them to protect funding for treatment and research programs.

“In the face of the Medicare changes enacted through health care reform, we urge Congress to refrain from targeting for dramatic cuts the vulnerable Medicare population that requires life-sustaining cancer therapies,” the groups wrote. “Congress can protect the interests of both the Medicare program and Medicare beneficiaries by promoting evidence based medicine, not through wholesale cuts.”

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