The Washington Times - December 13, 2012, 01:39PM

Two top Democratic leaders in Congress said Thursday that raising the Medicare eligibility age is off the table in ongoing budget talks — and both say the White House has their back on the issue.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, told reporters that raising the eligibility age from 65 is “no longer one of the items being considered by the White House.” That came just minutes after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had also rejected raising the age, and said President Obama “shares our values” on that question.


“As I have said, don’t even think about raising the Medicare age,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “We are not throwing America’s seniors over the cliff to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in America. We have clarity on that. But again, on all these other things, go to the table and negotiate.”

Many Republicans had advocated the move as a way to help curb entitlement spending and reduce the country’s long-term debt, and the matter had reportedly been a topic of conversation between House Speaker John A. Boehner and Mr. Obama during their one-on-one deficit-reduction talks last year.

In a recent interview with ABC News, Mr. Obama acknowledged that raising the eligibility age is “something that’s been floated.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that he’s “not doubting” Mr. Durbin’s remarks but that he also doesn’t speak for him. He said the White House would not engage in hypotheticals on spending cuts negotiated with the Republicans.

Mrs. Pelosi on Thursday argued that Democrats have already found $700 billion in savings for the program in Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul and that the president has an additional several hundred billion dollars of savings in his budget, “which we fully support.”

“The president knows our views, shares our values,” she said. “We respect his leadership. And the speaker may need our votes to go forward. So I’m confident about how the president is leading.”

The White House and Congressional Republicans are still working to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” — a combination of tax hikes and about $110 billion in mandatory spending cuts — that will take effect early next year absent action from Congress.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.