By Ros Krasny
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.(Reuters) - Republican proposals
on how to reform federal programs like Social Security and
Medicare could be ready in about a month, the No. 2 Republican
in the U.S. House of Representatives said Thursday.
Speaking at Harvard University, House Majority Leader Eric
Cantor said the Republican "prescription" on entitlement reform
would be included in budget proposals it expects to release in
March or early April.
Cantor said proposed reforms would not affect "today's
seniors or those approaching retirement," whom he defined as
age 55 and up. For others, "we need to come to grips with the
fact that we have to change those programs."
The Republican-controlled House approved legislation
Saturday to cut federal spending by about $61.5 billion from
current levels, but left untouched some of the biggest budget
items including the Social Security pension program and the
Medicare healthcare program for the elderly.
The spending measure is sure to be stopped by President
Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats who control the Senate.
Cantor said Congress was also weighing its options after
Obama ordered his administration to stop defending the
constitutionality of a federal law that bans recognition of gay
marriage. "I was a little taken aback by the president," Cantor
said of Obama's move.
Cantor's speech at Harvard on Republican plans to
revitalize the U.S. economy was raucous, with many students
critical of planned cuts to popular programs for the current
budget year and beyond.
Republicans, who gained control of the House in November's
elections, say federal belt-tightening will reinvigorate
investment in the private sector by raising business
Cantor defended the budget cuts as necessary trade-offs at
a time of a fiscal "train wreck," although he defended lower
tax rates for upper-income Americans.
"We're going to have to make some tough choices ...
government must stop spending money it doesn't have," he said.
The federal deficit is projected to be about $1.65 trillion
The speech came as the House and Senate stare down a
potential government shutdown when the resolution now funding
the government expires on March 4.
Senate Democrats have said they will push for a 30-day
extension of funding at current levels until both chambers can
agree to a longer-term extension. House Republicans insist that
any stopgap measure must include deep spending cuts.
(Reporting by Ros Krasny, Editing by Peter Bohan)
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