House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, have co-authored a letter to President Obama slamming his administration’s failure to submit a proposal to address Medicare’s looming insolvency (as required by law) and urging immediate action on the issue.
According to the Medicare Modernization Act 0f 2003, if the Medicare Trustees determine that the program is facing a funding shortfall — which they recently did for the sixth consecutive year — the president is required to submit a proposal to address that issue before he submits his next budget. This requirement is known as the “Medicare Trigger,” and has been consistently ignored by the Obama administration. No such proposal to save Medicare has been offered, and last year’s warning from the trustees, which should have resulted in a proposal from the president earlier this year, was not even mentioned in the president’s 2012 budget.
This hardly comes as a surprise, however, given that most Democrats seem to agree with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) that passing a budget in the Senate (also a requirement under the law) would be “foolish.” Unfortunately, it has been 776 days since Senate Democrats deigned to heed this requirement. In fact, in his opening remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday, Reid attacked Sessions for his persistent efforts to expose this simple fact, accusing the Alabama senator of “talking about things that really have no bearing on what I think is important for the country today.” Of course, we all know the sorts of things that Reid considers to be “important for the country.”
“Our country faces extraordinary economic challenges: a soaring budget deficit, a jobs deficit, and a leadership deficit in Washington that has resulted in our failure to confront a looming debt crisis,” the letter states. “These fiscal problems are driven in large part by the unsustainable growth in health care entitlement programs and an inability to credibly face our budget challenges that severely undermines confidence in our economy. The failure of politicians to put forward real solutions that will save and strengthen these critical programs is threatening the economic security of American families and the health security of America’s seniors.”
Republicans simply ask that President Obama act in accordance with federal law, which Sessions called “critically important” because “it recognizes that leadership is necessary when Medicare is at risk.”
“The Medicare Trustees continue to ring the alarm bell, and for the third year in a row, President Obama has failed to respond,” Ryan said in a statement. “It is time that President Obama and his party’s leaders upheld their legal obligation to offer solutions and their moral obligation to protect the health and economic security of America’s seniors.”