Both parties dig in on Medicare demands

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As Vice President Joe Biden continues to make progress overseeing debt limit negotiations between Democrats and Republicans, the questions remains as to whether the Obama administration will go along with GOP demands to significantly change Medicare.

The latest evidence -- a pair of opposing letters to the administration from members of the two major parties -- shows that Democrats and Republicans remain as committed as ever to their positions on a controversial GOP Medicare plan.

A group of moderate Democrats sent Biden a letter today asking him to oppose the House Republican Medicare plan, which they say attempts to "dismantle" Medicare. While the senators make clear they are rejecting the House plan, crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), they suggest they'd be open to other Medicare changes.

"We hope to identify delivery system reforms and other sources of savings that can extend the life of Medicare in its current form," the letter says. "But we will never allow any effort to dismantle the program and force benefit cuts upon seniors under the guise of deficit reduction."

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin (Md.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.). McCaskill, Tester and Nelson are all up for re-election next year.

Liberals in Congress, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have said they could "never" support a deficit reduction plan that included a reduction in Medicare benefits.

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Yet the question remains as to whether the administration and moderate Democrats could compel Pelosi and others to accept some changes. On MSNBC this morning, Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the second ranking Democrat in the House, said "everything needs to be on the table." He said Pelosi "thinks Medicare ought not to be changed." However, he added, "I have spent a lot of time in rooms discussing the matter, and [Pelosi] indicated everything should be on the table."

Meanwhile, a group of 76 conservative House freshmen sent their own letter to President Obama today, demanding the president put forward his own ideas for Medicare reform, if he's unwilling to accept the House GOP plan.

"It is vital that for serious negotiations to take place your Administration must put forward a plan that addresses entitlement reform, including Medicare. We cannot have honest and forthright negotiations without such a plan," the letter said. 'The current debate over what it will take for Congress to agree to raise the debt ceiling is one of the most vital debates the 112th Congress will engage in, yet the voice and leadership of the President of the United States is missing. Americans deserve to hear your plan."

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