Budget, debt ceiling deal close, sources say

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U.S. President Barack Obama (C) hosts a bipartisan meeting of Congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, January 13, 2015. Pictured (L to R) are Speaker of the House John Boehner, Obama, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mc


There is panic over John Boehner’s looming departure from the House speakership, and according to one early report, it’s leading the White House to do really stupid shit.

While congressional aides cautioned that the deal was far from certain, and the White House and Treasury Department declined to comment, officials briefed on the negotiations said the emerging accord would call for cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits.

That’s the New York Times. CNN has a bit more detail and is less alarming.

The deal is expected to include $70 billion-$75 billion in increased spending for defense and domestic spending, sources said. That new spending would be offset by sales from the strategic petroleum oil reserve, use of public airwaves for telecommunications companies and changes to the crop insurance program—among other measures. Moreover, the deal would spread out increases in Medicare premiums over time so beneficiaries

feel them acutely. It would also aim to preserve the Social Security disability trust fund, sources said.

Politico reports that a cap on Medicare Part B premium hikes that Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has fought for will be included. Those premiums were set to go up by 52 percent for a large chunk of Medicare recipients. Putting the two stories together, those premium increases will apparently be spread out over time. What’s happening with Social Security Disability isn’t at all clear. Remember, the House’s first action in January of this year was to force a crisis, preventing the customary transfer of funds from the retirement part of Social Security to shore up the disability part, which is facing a shortfall next year. Politico is also reporting that the “new spending would be offset by extending existing measures to contain Medicare and hospital costs, the sources said.”
The budget deal could be released as soon as Monday night, teed up for a Wednesday vote. It “would boost defense and non-defense spending by $50 billion next year, and $30 billion the year after, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs,” according to Politico. A parallel negotiation is happening with the debt ceiling hike, with few details available. Both deals supposedly extend into 2017, taking them both off the table during next year’s election.

Apparently Democrats have decided that offsetting spending increases is just how it works now, and aren’t even talking about the possibility of raising taxes on anybody. One hopes that they haven’t also decided that the way out of the current crisis is cuts to Medicare and Social Security—cuts that Republicans would most happily use in 2016 campaigns.

12:53 PM PT: They seem close enough to have scheduled a House Republican meeting tonight to discuss, and the House Rules Committee is

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