WASHINGTON — Leaders of President Barack Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission on Wednesday proposed reducing the annual cost-of-living increases in Social Security, part of a bold plan to control $1 trillion-plus budget deficits.
The proposal also would set a tough target for curbing the growth of Medicare and recommends looking at eliminating popular tax breaks, such as mortgage interest deduction.
As proposed, the plan by Chairman Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., doesn’t look like it can win support from 14 of the commission’s 18 members to force a debate in Congress. Bowles is a Democrat and was former President Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff.
Cuts to Social Security and Medicare are making some liberals on the panel recoil. And conservative Republicans are having difficulty with options on how to raise tax revenue. The plan also calls for cuts in farm subsidies, foreign aid and the Pentagon’s budget.
"This is not a proposal I could support," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. "On Medicare and Social Security in particular, there are proposals that I could not support."
The Social Security proposal would change the inflation measurement used to calculate cost of living adjustments for program benefits, reducing annual cost-of-living increases. It will almost certainly draw opposition from advocates for seniors, who are already upset that there will be no increase for 2011, the second straight year without a raise.
The plan released by Bowles is only a proposal put forth by him and Simpson. Members of the commission will resume debate on it later Wednesday and next week in a long-shot bid to reach a compromise.
The release of the proposal comes just a week after midterm elections that gave Republicans the House majority and increased their numbers in the Senate. During the campaign, neither political party talked of spending cuts of the magnitude proposed by Bowles, with Republicans simply proposing $100 million in cuts to domestic programs passed each year by Congress.
"It’s a very provocative proposal," said GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas. "Some of it I like. Some of it disturbs me. And some of it I’ve got to study."