When the White House issues deficit recommendations on Monday, changes to the federal retirement benefit will not be among them
President Obama, who was willing to include Social Security reform in his quest for a "grand bargain" just two months ago, will not ask the congressional super committee to include the program when it tackles the nation's debt crisis in coming weeks.
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The decision, confirmed by the White House on Thursday, is no surprise because the president has repeatedly said he does not see the retirement entitlement program as a factor in the current deficit, although he has called for long-term reform. House Speaker John Boehner, in a speech on Thursday to the Economic Club of Washington, called on the committee to reform entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare but didn't specify how.
White House press secretary Jay Carney would not rule out Obama's asking the committee to take on Medicare and Medicaid reforms when he outlines his deficit recommendations on Monday.
"The president from the beginning has stated that we need to take measures to strengthen Social Security for the long term," Carney said "but it is not a driver of our near-term deficit problems, and it can be pursued on a parallel track."
But Carney said that the other entitlement programs "are contributors to our deficit and debt issues" and will be the "focus of negotiations to find a substantial package of proposals that will deal with our deficit and long-term debt." He promised that the president's proposals on Monday "will deal with a number of areas that are essential to be dealt with if we want to get our deficits and debt under control."
But Carney refused to elaborate or provide details. "I'll let the president do that on Monday," he said, adding, "The distinction here is that Social Security we have never seen as a driving factor in terms of our near-term deficit problems, and ... that's why it is separate from the other entitlement programs and other issues that are a part of that, including spending through our tax code."
In July, when the president was pushing for the grand bargain in talks with Boehner, he was more eager to take on Social Security. "It's not an option for us to just sit by and do nothing," Obama said at the time. "And if you're a progressive who cares about the integrity of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, and believes that it is part of what makes our country great that we look after our seniors and we look after the most vulnerable, then we have an obligation to make sure that we make those changes that are required to make it sustainable over the long term."
But in a July press conference, Obama said, "Social Security is not the primary driver of our long-term deficits and debt."
Image credit: Mark Theiler/Reuters