Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner echoed another White House message to Republicans during a string of Sunday show interviews: no Social Security talks as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations.
"We're prepared to, in a separate process, look at how to strengthen Social Security," Geithner said on ABC's This Week. "But not as part of a process to reduce the other deficits the country faces."
White House spokesman Jay Carney and many congressional Democrats have also said that Social Security should be off the table as the fiscal cliff looms.
Republicans say the rise of entitlement spending overall -- Medicare and Medicaid, as well as Social Security -- should be part of any debt reduction agreement now; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republicans say the White House is more interested in tax hikes than meaningful spending cuts.
"Their answer to everything on the spending cut/entitlement reform side of the equation is 'maybe later -- but tax everything else now,'" McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement by Jan. 1, they face the so-called "fiscal cliff," a series of automatic tax hikes and budget cuts that could plunge the nation back into recession.
As we reported earlier this morning, Geithner also said the White House will insist that any agreement will include higher tax rates on the wealthy.