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Disability Programs May Take Hit In Upcoming Budget Battle

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Just days after Democrats and Republicans reached a last-minute deal to avert a government shutdown, White House officials say entitlement programs benefiting people with disabilities could factor in efforts to curtail the nation’s budget deficit.

Making the rounds on the Sunday political talk shows, White House adviser David Plouffe said that President Barack Obama would consider Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security when he lays out his plan to tackle the deficit in a speech on Wednesday.

“You’re going to have to look at Medicare and Medicaid and see what kind of savings you can get,” Plouffe said on NBC’s Meet the Press, adding, “if there can be a discussion about how to strengthen Social Security in the future, he’s (Obama) eager to have that discussion.”

Plouffe’s comments come as the House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on a Republican proposal to bring major changes to Medicaid that would give the nation’s governors more flexibility in running the health program. However, the plan is unlikely to gain much traction in the Senate where Democrats have a majority.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are still working to hammer out the details of the budget deal reached late Friday. The agreement, which includes $38 billion in cuts to federal spending for the remainder of this year, prevented an impending government shutdown.

Where those cuts will fall is not yet entirely clear, however. What is known is that some housing and health care programs will face reduced budgets as $13 billion is trimmed from across the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services, according to the White House website.

At the same time, funding for K-12 education will be maintained, the White House said.

“Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful,” Obama said Friday in announcing the deal. “Programs people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances.”

Congress is expected to vote this week on a final bill — encompassing the billions in cuts — to fund the government for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year, which runs through September.

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