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The Nation

April 13, 2011

Obama pivots, eyes Medicare changes, tax increases

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

"He believes that there has to be a balanced approach" to reducing long-term deficits, Carney said. "And that's entitlements, tax expenditures and defense."

The president's proposal is meant to be in sharp contrast with the plan offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan., R-Wis. That budget proposal, embraced by the House Republican leadership, would reduce spending by more than $5 trillion over 10 years with structural overhauls to Medicare and Medicaid while also making permanent all Bush-era tax cuts.

"Where the president believes the House Republican plan fails starkly is that it is imbalanced, that it places all the burden on the middle class, on seniors, on the disabled, on people in nursing homes, through its rather drastic reform of Medicare and Medicaid," Carney said.

Obama could face resistance from Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Tuesday reiterated his opposition to changes in Social Security.

The president's speech also comes as six senators — three Republicans and three Democrats — have been working on a bipartisan compromise that would tackle Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security costs but also seek to raise more revenue through tax increases. Obama's decision to give a speech caught those senators by surprise. The Democrats are Mark Warner of Virginia, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Kent Conrad of North Dakota. The Republicans are Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Mike Crapo of Idaho.

Senate aides said members of that so-called Gang of Six would not attend the speech to avoid any suggestion that they supported the president's view or that the president endorsed their work.

Meanwhile, Republicans were already girding for a confrontation.

"If the president begins the discussion by saying we must increase taxes on the American people — as his budget does — my response will be clear: Tax increases are unacceptable and are a nonstarter," Boehner declared Tuesday. "We don't have deficits because Americans are taxed too little, we have deficits because Washington spends too much."

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