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Harkin, Reed: Debt Limit and Medicare Don’t Mix

A pair of liberal Democratic Senators maintained Friday that reforming Medicare should not be a condition of raising the debt ceiling.

While Sens. Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Jack Reed (R.I.) laid down their marker, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reiterated his call for President Barack Obama to engage in bipartisan discussions to reach a deal on the debt limit within the next month.

Harkin, however, said that request was unreasonable.

“Mr. Boehner says he wants to have this done by the end of this month,” Harkin said. “Well, he knows as well as everyone else that reaching an adequate and bipartisan solution on Medicare is going to take weeks.”

Harkin’s comments came during a call with reporters, during which Reed also weighed in on the issue that has dominated discussion on Capitol Hill this week. Reed said on the call that Republicans should stop their push for overhauling Medicare in order to reach an agreement on the debt ceiling before the Aug. 2 deadline.

“I think the risk of not raising the debt ceiling is so significant that we should be focused on that,” Reed said.

Added Harkin: “Do I believe that Medicare should be off the table? You bet I do, because it has nothing to do with the default crisis right now.”

Boehner, meanwhile, continued to insist that everything was on the table in the debt negotiations being led by Vice President Joseph Biden, except raising taxes.

“I think there has been a lot of progress that has been made in the Biden talks. I think Majority Leader Cantor has done a great job of representing our interests in those talks, but if we’re going to meet the president’s goal of trying to get this done by the end of June it’s time for him to step up and take more action,” Boehner told reporters.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who is a part of the Biden talks, said the group is “hard at work” to find consensus on spending cuts. The Virginia Republican echoed Boehner, affirming “everything is on the table other than raising taxes on the people we need to help create jobs.”

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