Blue Ribbon Commission for Social Security/Medicare?

By Caitlin Taylor

May 12, 2009 11:27am

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports: The Social Security and Medicare Trustees report, which is to be released today, is expected to have bad news about the long-term solvency of those programs and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are taking the opportunity to criticize the Democrats for not getting the budget under control.

What’s the answer? Depoliticize the issue – some lawmakers in both parties support a Blue Ribbon Commission to figure out how to fix entitlement spending.

In a pre-emptive speech on the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell again called for a bipartisan study group to be appointed by Congress and the President to suggest a course for getting entitlement spending under control.

"Soon enough, Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlements will consume about twice the percentage of the Federal budget they did four decades ago. If we don’t get control over this spending soon, we’ll only have a fraction left for vital priorities such as defense, health care, transportation, and other job creators," said McConnell.  “We must address the issue of entitlement spending now — before it’s too late. "

Republicans have turned up the volume on their concern about the long-term budget shortfalls of government since losing control of Congress in 2006 and the Presidency last year.

Democrats, meanwhile, now in charge, have been talking more about the short-term needs of the economy than long-term entitlement reform. But there are exceptions. The House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, is said to be working behind the scenes with Republicans on his own proposal for a bipartisan solution to entitlement spending.

The proposal for an entitlements commission like the one McConnell endorses is itself bipartisan – the Chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee suggested the idea earlier this year.

Given the tough political choices that would have to be made in curbing either social security or Medicare to get the budget under control, the idea is that proposals from the entitlements commission would include language to insure they were fast-tracked in Congress.

But first it needs support from Democratic leaders and the White House. –Z. Byron Wolf

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