Welcome back, Senators. After enjoying a week-long quasi-recess (Republicans forced several brief "pro-forma" sessions to prevent President Obama from making any more controversial recess appointments), the US Senate is reconvening for official business at this hour. It's been 768 days since the world's most deliberative body even introduced a budget, an act that happens to be a statutory responsibility. Out of curiosity, might that task appear on today's legislative agenda? According to top Senate aides, no. No it won't.
That fact hasn't stopped a clique of five Senate Democrats (all of whom just happen to be up for re-election next year) from firing off a letter to Vice President Biden, demanding that Medicare maintain its sacrosanct status in the latest round of bipartisan negotiations:
Five Democratic senators are calling on Vice President Joe Biden to reaffirm his commitment to leaving Medicare unchanged during budget and deficit negotiations.
Sens. Claire McCaskill, of Missouri, Jon Tester, of Montana, Sherrod Brown, of Ohio, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Bill Nelson of Florida express their concerns in a letter sent Monday to Biden. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press. They note Biden has made progress in negotiations and say that as talks move to areas with less consensus the vice president must insist that significant changes to Medicare are off the table.
Ah, yes. Senate Democrats bravely charging into the breach to oppose something without proffering any viable alternative; it's a finely-honed skill at this point. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'd humbly submit that someone ought to inform these courageous leaders that if Medicare reform remains "off the table" for much longer, their inaction will trigger the ultimate (and undesirable) "significant change" to the program:
Medicare's hospital insurance trust fund will become insolvent in 2024, five years sooner than previously estimated, largely due to the sluggish economy, the Social Security and Medicare Trustees report.Medicare costs will continue to grow substantially, from a 3.6 percent share of the economy in 2010 to 5.5 percent by 2035, the trustees project in their annual report. But they say reforms in last year's health care law can help.
Republican critics argue that one of the signatories to the letter, Sen. Claire "Wings" McCaskill, is flip-flopping on entitlement reform -- a transparent pre-election pander. Perish the thought. National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Brian Walsh highlights McCaskill's about face:
I would point out that this letter is particularly ironic because just a few months ago, one of these Senate Democrats, Claire McCaskill, held a press conference on Capitol Hill where she said explicitly that “everything’s on the table” including entitlement programs. Please see the story below.
As a reminder, McCaskill’s comments were made as she announced legislation that even fellow liberals say includes similar cuts to Medicare that are included in the House Republican budget.
Why, it's almost as if Democrats aren't actually serious about addressing this entitlements-driven debt crisis, which President Obama calls "unsustainable" and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regards as the biggest threat to US national security.