Lost in the Libyan debacle: Senators Push Obama on Deficit ('Obama can't play ostrich on this stuff much longer.')
More than 60 senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama Friday urging him to "engage" on long-term deficit reduction, a sign of legislative momentum on the issue and impatience with the White House.
The letter doesn't necessarily signal imminent action in Congress on the politically painful decisions that likely would be required to rein in future deficits. But it suggests a working majority of the Senate—which is often slow to act on big issues—wants to begin addressing the nation's long-term fiscal problems. The 64 signers included 32 senators from each party.
The appeal to Mr. Obama may put new pressure on him to act and suggests he likely would have to take a leading role if any deal is to be reached before the 2012 election.
Deficit hawks have criticized Mr. Obama for failing to use his annual budget release in February to lay out a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan.
A new analysis released Friday by the Congressional Budget Office suggests Mr. Obama's new budget does even less to rein in deficits than the administration has estimated. CBO, which found several administration assumptions overly optimistic, said federal deficits would total $9.5 trillion between 2012 and 2021 under Mr. Obama's proposals, compared with the administration's $7.2 trillion estimate.
A senior House GOP aide noted the large number of Democratic senators who signed Friday's letter, effectively acknowledging the need to address the issue. "He [Mr. Obama] can't play ostrich on this stuff much longer," the aide said.
The risks to both parties in altering entitlements remain high. Democrats lost senior voters by 21 percentage points in 2010, according to a recent Lake Research Partners analysis, in part because of Republican attacks against Democrats over future Medicare reductions contained in last year's landmark health-care legislation.
Democrats also have lost much of the advantage they traditionally held over Republicans among voters on which party would better handle Social Security, the analysis said. But the pendulum could swing back if Republicans go too far in their plans.