Congress Returns To Work On The Budget; Medicare Will Be Key

All sides of the budget issue are preparing for a long fight. Among the key players is the so-called "Gang of Six," which is honing its deficit reduction plan.

The Associated Press: Tax, Spending Divisions Laid Bare In Public Forums
Should anyone need reminding, the nation, like Congress, is deeply divided over how extensively to change Medicare, cut spending and revise taxes. When Congress returns to work this coming week, the Democratic-led Senate will set aside the House blueprint. Leaders from both parties will work with the Obama administration to seek a compromise to fund the government in 2012, make long-term changes to Medicare and raise the government's borrowing limit (Babington, 5/1).

The Washington Post: Let The Budget Battle Begin; Congressional Leaders Dig In For Long Fight
President Obama starts it off Monday night by hosting a dinner party for a bipartisan collection of congressional leaders and top lawmakers from various House and Senate committees. Then on Thursday, Vice President Biden brings congressional leaders to Blair House for the first of what could be many discussions about how to reach a deal on the debt limit and then about an even longer-term issue: Medicare and Medicaid (Kane, 5/1).

Politico: Senate Braces For A Heated 2012 Budget Debate
Chapter II of Washington's great budget debate is "put up or shut up" time for the U.S. Senate. The House was the primary actor in Chapter I, driving the fight over domestic appropriations cuts in the 2011 budget agreed to last month. But as lawmakers return Monday, the longer-term fiscal crisis requires the Senate to step up and bring with it a level of compromise and intimacy once second nature to the chamber (Rogers, 5/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Senate 'Gang' Hashes Out Deficit Plan
It's been a tough few weeks inside the closed-door talks involving an unlikely alliance of three Democrats and three Republicans, as the buzzer indicates. As soon as this week, the group — including Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) on the left and Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) on the right — could release a sweeping blueprint aimed at cutting the country's deficit. That move is likely to ratchet up pressure on President Barack Obama and Congress to do the same (Bendavid and Paletta, 5/2).

The Associated Press/The Seattle Times: Group Of 6 Senators Hones Plan To Cut US Deficits
A bipartisan group of six senators is closing in on what could represent the best chance for tackling a deficit crisis that has forced the government to borrow more than 40 cents of every dollar it spends. Their plan, still a work in progress, would reduce borrowing by up to $4 trillion over the next decade by putting the two parties' sacred cows on the chopping block. Republicans would have to agree to higher taxes while Democrats would have to accept cuts in popular benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and maybe even Social Security (Taylor and Ohlemacher, 5/1).

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