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Whitehouse leading fight to avert cuts in benefits

By:  John Mulligan
The Providence Journal

WASHINGTON — In the high-stakes debate over cutting the nation’s debt, it’s hard to know how much clout the Democratic left has wielded because so much of the drama has played out on the Republican right.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio may have closed the book on his hopes for a big bipartisan deal with President Obama to cut the deficit when he announced last weekend that his Republican colleagues remain opposed to any tax increases.

If the tax-hikes-for-benefits-cuts swap is indeed dead, liberal Democrats may never be tested on their willingness or ability to block a proposal so tied to Mr. Obama’s efforts to forge bipartisan compromise on an issue vital to the nation’s economic standing –– and his reelection prospects.

But as the sub-plot thickened on the Democratic side of the stage, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse was among the activists getting attention for their sharp opposition to the idea of a deficit deal based partly on cuts in such huge and costly entitlement programs as Social Security and Medicare.

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