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Obama backs away from Social Security in deficits plan

Sep 15, 2011, 1:02 p.m.

The Wall Street Journal said on Thursday the White House was now looking instead at cuts to providers and increased premiums for wealthier recipients of Medicare, the healthcare program for the elderly.

Republican members of the super committee have questioned whether reaching far beyond the $1.2 trillion target is achievable, especially with Social Security off the table.

White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to say how much deficit-cutting Obama would pursue. "The goal is to do substantial deficit reduction and debt control," he said.

Obama's Social Security shift is a win for advocacy groups for the elderly, who have been pushing to take Social Security off the table because it is not adding yet to the deficit.

Eyeing the 2012 election, congressional Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have also said it should be walled off.

Jared Bernstein, a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, said protecting Social Security "makes a lot of sense for Democrats."

"These things are critical to the base," he said.

In addition to the proposals from Obama, Boehner and other lawmakers, the super committee members are hearing concerns from defense contractors, aerospace firms, healthcare providers and the pharmaceutical industry, who fear the impact of government spending cuts in their areas.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and other aerospace companies have launched a grassroots campaign to highlight their ties to the economy, and health insurers, drugmakers, hospitals and doctors are doing their own lobbying and encouraging patients to present their own concerns to super committee members.

(Additional reporting by Deborah Charles, Donna Smith, Andy Sullivan, Kevin Drawbaugh and Alister Bull; Editing by Ross Colvin and Jackie Frank)

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