Jeb Hensarling, Republican Supercommittee Co-Chair
ll now know that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction has failed to reach an agreement. While there will still be $1.2 trillion of spending cuts as guaranteed under the Budget Control Act, we regrettably missed a historic opportunity to lift the burden of debt and help spur economic growth and job creation. Americans deserve an explanation.
President Obama summed up our debt crisis best when he told Republican members of the House in January 2010 that "The major driver of our long-term liabilities . . . is Medicare and Medicaid and our health-care spending." A few months later, however, Mr. Obama and his party's leaders in Congress added trillions of dollars in new health-care spending to the government's balance sheet.
Democrats on the committee made it clear that the new spending called for in the president's health law was off the table. Still, committee Republicans offered to negotiate a plan on the other two health-care entitlements—Medicare and Medicaid—based upon the reforms included in the budget the House passed earlier this year.
The Medicare reforms would make no changes for those in or near retirement. Beginning in 2022, beneficiaries would be guaranteed a choice of Medicare-approved private health coverage options and guaranteed a premium-support payment to help pay for the plan they choose.
Democrats rejected this approach but assured us on numerous occasions they would offer a "structural" or "architectural" Medicare reform plan of their own. While I do not question their good faith effort to do so, they never did.
Republicans on the committee also offered to negotiate a plan based on the bipartisan "Protect Medicare Act" authored by Alice Rivlin, one of President Bill Clinton's budget directors, and Pete Domenici, a former Republican senator from New Mexico. Rivlin-Domenici offered financial support to seniors to purchase quality, affordable health coverage in Medicare-approved plans. These seniors would be able to choose from a list of Medicare-guaranteed coverage options, similar to the House budget's approach—except that Rivlin-Domenici would continue to include a traditional Medicare fee-for-service plan among the options.
This approach was also rejected by committee Democrats.