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News Roundup: For Congress, Big Deadlines Loom

From Kaiser Health News

On the Sunday talk shows, members of Congress sparred over the upcoming budget votes and the ongoing dispute over the cost of 'Obamacare' and entitlement programs such as Medicare. More urgently, if Congress fails to pass an extension to keep the government funded by March 27, agencies and programs face a broad shutdown.


Los Angeles Times : There's No Immediate Debt Crisis, Boehner Says, Agreeing With Obama
The country isn't facing an immediate debt crisis, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday, but he argued that Congress and the president must reform entitlements to avert one that lies dead ahead. "We all know that we have one looming," Boehner said on ABC's "This Week". "And we have one looming because we have entitlement programs that are not sustainable in their current form. They're going to go bankrupt" (Parsons, 3/17).

Reuters: Republicans Differ On Flexibility On Taxes With Obama
Leading congressional Republicans said on Sunday a broad deal with President Barack Obama on deficit reduction and entitlement reform remains possible but differed over potential flexibility on taxes. ... Such a deal could include curbing spending on costly entitlement programs like the Social Security retirement program and the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly and disabled. ... Republicans and Democrats in Congress last Tuesday proposed vastly different plans to slash long-term deficits (Dunham, 3/17).

The Washington Post: GOP Sen. Corker Opens The Door To New Tax Revenue
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Sunday that he believes Republicans would consider adding new tax revenues by closing loopholes if Democrats show a willingness to embrace "true" entitlement reform. "I think Republicans, if they saw true entitlement reform, would be glad to look at tax reform that generates additional revenues," Corker said on "Fox News Sunday." ... Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, said he was open to reforms to Medicare, but didn't delve into specifics, as he criticized the House Republican plan. "We want to make sure Medicare is there for generations to come," Durbin said on "Fox News Sunday" (Sullivan, 3/17).

The Hill: Ryan: GOP Budget Best Way To Make 'Down Payment' On Debt
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), architect of the House GOP budget plan unveiled last week, defended his proposal Sunday, saying it was Washington's best chance to make a "down payment" and avoid a looming debt crisis. ...  Ryan's plan assumes repeal of the administration's healthcare plan and would offer payments to seniors who opt out of Medicare for private insurance coverage. Democrats quickly criticized the proposal, saying Ryan recycled the same ideas from his last budget and warning that the spending cuts and changes to Medicare would hurt the poor and seniors (Munoz, 3/17).

Politico: Van Hollen, McCarthy Spar On Budget
Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) traded barbs on Sunday over the Democratic and Republican budgets ... "This week, Republicans will have a budget that balances in 10 years. The Democrats' budget never balances," McCarthy said on NBC's "Meet the Press." Van Hollen, appearing on the same show, replied ... "Their budget is built on a hoax. On the one hand they say it balances in 10 years, on the other hand they say they repeal Obamacare. The fact is they repeal all the benefits of Obamacare. ... But you know what? They keep the savings that are in Obamacare. And if you were to repeal Obamacare today, their budget would not be in balance" (Kopan, 3/17).

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