Fri Feb 21, 2014 2:54AM
US President Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama

The White House says US President Barack Obama has decided to drop cuts to Social Security and other benefit programs in the forthcoming budget.

Last year, Obama agreed to include the cuts in the budget to trap Republicans into a “grand bargain” which would pair spending cuts with tax increases in order to reduce future deficits and the nation’s debt.

Republicans liked the idea of a chained consumer price index (chained CPI) -- a change in the way inflation is measured -- but they never agreed to pair the policy with higher taxes.

White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday said the chained CPI will no longer be part of the proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year.

“There was a point in time when there was a little bit more optimism about the willingness of Republicans to budge on closing some tax loopholes,” said Earnest. “But over the course of the last year, they’ve refused to do that.”

Republicans expressed disappointment at Obama's move.

“This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: the president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the speaker of the House, John A. Boehner of Ohio.

"The one and only idea the president has to offer is even more job-destroying tax hikes, and that non-starter won’t do anything to save the entitlement programs that are critical to so many Americans. With three years left in office, it seems the president is already throwing in the towel."

Activists, who campaigned last year against the chained CPI after Obama included it in his 2014 budget proposal, praised Thursday’s announcement.

"This is a huge progressive victory -- and greatly increases Democratic chances of taking back the House and keeping the Senate,” said Stephanie Taylor, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

“Now, the White House should join [Democratic Senator] Elizabeth Warren and others in pushing to expand Social Security benefits to keep up with the rising cost of living," she added.