Lieberman: Reforming Medicare is 'Tough Medicine'

Wednesday, 03 Aug 2011 03:14 AM

By Hiram Reisner

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Sen. Joe Lieberman says to cut the debt and invigorate the moribund economy Congress must deal with reforming entitlements, particularly Medicare, even though doing so will be “tough medicine.” The Connecticut independent also said Tuesday on Fox News he does not put a lot of credence in the “super” committee, mandated to examine further spending cuts, as both parties will try to maintain the status quo.
 
Lieberman, who voted for the debt-reduction deal, said he did so with some trepidation.
 
“Well, it was a classic, is the glass half-full or half-empty — am I going to go with my hopes or my fears? I went with my hopes,” Lieberman told Fox News’ Neal Cavuto. “What was good about it:  it is a bipartisan compromise that really does begin to cut federal spending. And we do not have too many bipartisan compromises around here anymore — and we need to cut federal spending.
 
“What it didn’t do was to take on the other two big items that are necessary for a ‘grand bargain.’ To cut the debt and get our economy going you have got to deal with entitlements — Medicare particularly — and you also should look at tax reform,” he said. “And that has to come from the special committee that was created, or this whole process that we began today is going to end in a failure.”
 
Cavuto said he has spoken with investment professionals who worry the committee will put untenable tax cuts on the table, and the whole debt issue will be revisited before year’s end.

Under the debt-reduction deal, which the president signed Tuesday after the Senate gave its imprimatur, if Congress does not accept the panel’s recommendations, it will trigger massive, across-the-board cuts.

“Well, this is not going away. The special committee has to report by Thanksgiving and the Congress has to . . . deal with it one way or the other by the end of the year,” Lieberman said. “Look, the key decisions now are going to be made by the four leaders — Boehner, Pelosi, Reid, and McConnell — who will nominate each three members to this 12-member committee.

“But here’s the question: The constituency, the interest groups in both parties, will be pressuring the leaders to put people on this committee who will basically protect the status quo,” he said. “Well, we can’t do that because the status quo is taking us over the fiscal cliff. We have got to cut spending to get back into fiscal balance. And that is what this agreement began to do — but it is really only a beginning.”

Lieberman, who will retire when his current term ends, said in the some 18 months he has left, he plans to work for a balanced budget.

“I am working with Senator Tom Coburn, conservative Republican colleague and friend from Oklahoma. We have put forward a Medicare reform plan that will save $600 billion over the next decade,” Lieberman said, adding it “is tough medicine, but we have got to take tough medicine, not only to save Medicare, but also to stop the drain that Medicare now represents on the federal budget.”

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