Obama offer to slow Social Security payment growth sparks criticism from both parties

UPDATED 11:29 a.m. ET

Liberals and Republicans alike on Friday criticized President Barack Obama's plan to offer in his budget April 10 an inflation formula that will slow the growth of Social Security and veterans benefits.

Progressives reacted negatively to the news that the president will propose a different way to measure the consumer price index, one referred to as "chained CPI," which is supported by key Republicans in Congress. Chained CPI will lower annual cost-of-living increases for entitlements including Social Security and Medicare and benefits for disabled veterans—reasons why chained CPI is opposed by some Democrats, progressives and others.

A senior administration official said on Friday that chained CPI will be offered in the hopes of getting Republicans to bend on closing tax-cut loopholes for top earners to create revenue and lower the deficit.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, one of Congress' most outspoken liberals and a vehement opponent of chained CPI, warned Obama on Friday morning not to renege on his promise to avoid cuts to entitlement programs and veterans benefits as a way to reduce the deficit.

“Millions of working people, seniors, disabled veterans, those who have lost a loved one in combat, and women will be extremely disappointed if President Obama caves into the long standing Republican effort to cut Social Security and benefits for disabled veterans and their survivors through a so-called chained CPI,” he said in a statement.

Others on the "left" also expressed warnings to the president after news of the chained CPI proposal.

"You can't call yourself a Democrat and support Social Security benefit cuts," Stephanie Taylor, Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder, said in a statement. "The president is proposing to steal thousands of dollars from grandparents and veterans by cutting cost of living adjustments, and any congressional Democrat who votes for such a plan should be ready for a primary challenge. Social Security is the core of the progressive and Democratic legacy. The president has no mandate to cut these benefits, and progressives will do everything possible to stop him."

Supporters, including many members of Congress, say chained CPI is a more accurate way to measure inflation and reduce spending.

Though the CPI offer is designed to appeal to Republicans, it's nothing new. A chained CPI provision has been part of each of the president's "grand bargain" proposals to Republicans, which they've rejected because of tax raises.

House Speaker John Boehner, as expected, issued criticism on Friday about the president's budget, suggesting the CPI proposal is still just a political move to raise taxes.

"If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there's no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes. That’s no way to lead and move the country forward," Boehner said in a statement.

Criticism from both parties was expected, and the president's budget is never passed in full by Congress, but it will play an important role in the negotiating process.

The president's budget, according to the senior administration official, will also:

-Aim to reduce the deficit by $1.8 trillion over 10 years

-Increase tobacco taxes to cover the president's universal pre-K program

-Close a loophole that currently permits individuals to simultaneously collect full disability and unemployment benefits

-Set limits on tax-preferred retirement accounts for millionaires and billionaires

The president's budget by law was due Feb. 4 of this year. Republicans have criticized the administration for missing that deadline for what Republicans contend is a political maneuver designed to put Congress out front in what is expected to be a challenging budget negotiation process.

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