Lawmakers expressed confidence Sunday that a budget deal will be reached before Dec. 13, when the House of Representatives is expected to adjourn.
“I think there’s an obvious solution here … which is the fact that we can shift some of the savings from the part of the budget that Congress appropriates every year, to the two-thirds of the budget that is called mandatory spending. Keep the budget caps in place, not raise taxes, which is important during this weak economy, and actually avoid a government shutdown. I’m hopeful that even by the end of this week we’ll be able to come together and achieve that,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio.).
Portman, who is a member of the Senate Budget Committee, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” alongside Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.).
Budget negotiations have been underway between Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.) and Sen. Pat Murray (D., Wash.). Reports say they are close to reaching an agreement on behalf of their parties, but a potential sticking point in the talks is the extension of unemployment benefits.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) recently said there would be no deal unless those benefits are extended. Durbin softened that stance, saying on “This Week,” “I don’t think we’ve reached that point where we’ve said this is it, take it or leave it.”
Those benefits come from a program known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), and provide compensation to “unemployed individuals who have already collected all regular state benefits for which they were eligible.” Without an extension, they will expire for 1.3 million people on January 1.
“It’s about an additional $25 billion that no one was talking about until the last week. So it’s an additional cost within this budget agreement,” explained Portman.
“I think the thought always was that that would be handled separately so I’m glad to hear my colleague Dick Durbin say that that’s not necessarily a sticking point in this.”
President Barack Obama addressed this issue in his weekly address, urging Congress to pass an extension.
Obama’s address focused on broader economic issues as well, reiterating points he made during a speech at the Center for American Progress on Wednesday. The latest economic “pivots” have been described as an effort to shift attention from Obamacare, which is still facing a tumultuous rollout.
“The website isn’t totally fixed either, particularly on the back end. You have to deliver the information to the insurers and that still has a 25% or so error rate, and you’re not getting accurate information to them. They don’t know who is signing up,” Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal noted on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“And that’s the other problem,” Gigot continued, “Who is signing up? Young people [are] not signing up right now in the numbers that they have to make this work long term, so you’re going to see problems with people not just losing their insurance policies, but beginning to see what these narrow networks in these new policies. ‘Oh I can’t keep my doctor, and by the way maybe the price is not going up not just in 2014 of my policy but in 2015,’ and that politics is going to roll out and hurt the Democrats.”
Many have anticipated that the next issue the president will face is whether or not Americans can actually keep their doctor under the new health plans.
Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel, a chief architect of the law, told “Fox News Sunday” that the president “never said you were going to have unlimited choice of any doctor in the country you want to go to.”
Host Chris Wallace asked, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Did he not say that, sir?”
“He didn’t say you could have unlimited choice,” Emmanuel maintained.
When Wallace pressed for a “simple yes or no” answer, Emmanuel conceded, “Yes. But look, if you want to pay more for an insurance company that covers your doctor, you can do that. This is a matter of choice. We know in all sorts of places you pay… for a wider range of choices or wider range of benefits.”