Cantor Sees Social Security Reform Proposals Soon

Thursday, 24 Feb 2011 10:43 PM

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 confidence.

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 this year.

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)

© 2015 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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