En español| A comprehensive plan to cut $4 trillion in deficit spending drew the votes of more than 60 percent of a presidential deficit panel, bridging the sharply partisan differences that have helped put the nation's balance sheet in the red.
The plan would raise the retirement age to 69 in 2075. It would lower Social Security benefits for higher-paid workers when they retire and raise them for longtime minimum wage workers. It would also require Medicare patients to pay more out of pocket.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he has been swamped with calls from fellow progressives since he announced he would back the plan despite the Social Security changes he didn't like.
"I believe politicians on the left and the right … have to acknowledge the deficit crisis our nation faces," Durbin said. "This is a report meant to kick-start an adult debate."
AARP Executive Vice President John Rother says the proposals will be more like a menu for lawmakers to choose from, even though they won't vote on the total package. The fact that the report got support from both parties, he says, "would seem to indicate these are not simply going to be dismissed, but that these ideas would be taken seriously."
Democrats control the Senate and White House while Republicans will take the majority in the House in January. Former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican and co-chairman of the panel, warned people to hold on tight next year when a wave of Republican freshmen dedicated to shrinking government get to town. Simpson said their strong feelings will make for some interesting votes on issues like raising the nation's debt limit.
Edward Coyle, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, says the new GOP majority will push for portions of the deficit plan like raising the Social Security age and lowering overall income tax rates. "Some of it has a much easier shot at getting passed than the whole package," says Coyle, who opposes the changes to Social Security. "We need to be vigilant."
AARP CEO A. Barry Rand said he'd like to see changes to the package as it is weighed.
"Our members are very concerned about the retirement prospects for their children and grandchildren, and believe that lowering Social Security income and increasing health and long-term care costs are the wrong approach, one that would lower the standard of living in retirement for future generations," Rand said.
Tamara Lytle is an award-winning Washington-based journalist.