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What Do Pelosi's Smoke Signals Really Mean?

As President Obama's personal lobbying on Capitol Hill this week seemed to bring him closer to Republican lawmakers as he talked about changes in Medicare and Social Security, Democrats offered the expected pushback.


But Obama won unexpected support from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, usually a leader of the party's liberal wing.

USA Today reported Pelosi as saying that Democrats are open to some reforms, among them requiring wealthier Americans to pay more for Medicare.

She also sounded amenable to a change that's anathema to many liberals: rewriting the formula that calculates future Social Security benefits to one that has a less generous measure of inflation built into it. Pelosi, The Hill reported, "said moving to a less generous formula for adjusting Social Security benefits to inflation - if  it protects the most vulnerable Social Security beneficiaries - might be preferable to other entitlement cuts Republicans are urging, like raising Medicare's eligibility age."

In a briefing with reporters, Pelosi said, "I'd have to say that if we can demonstrate that it doesn't hurt the poor and the very elderly, then let's take a look at it," Pelosi told reporters.

That, of course, doesn't mean other liberals are ready to follow.

The Daily Kos' Joan McCarter writes that Pelosi is "undercutting what has been key rhetoric for Democrats in all of these budget fights: we won't reduce the deficit on the backs of poor/elderly/middle class/working Americans. So why even go near breaking that promise?"

To which McCarter adds: "That's what liberals in the House are asking, too."

When the Washington Post's Greg Sargent asked Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, what's worse - the sequester or some kind of grand bargain with the Republicans that includes changes in Social Security and Medicare - Ellison replied: "It's like saying, 'Which of your kids do you want to sacrifice to the monster?' Neither one."

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