Democrats Stiffen Spine Against Trimming Benefits

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WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's re-election has stiffened Democrats' spine against cutting popular benefit programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Their new resolve could become as big a hurdle to a deal that would avoid crippling tax increases and spending cuts in January as Republicans' resistance raising tax rates on the wealthy.

Just last year, Obama and top Democrats were willing to consider politically risky steps such as reducing the annual inflation adjustment to Social Security and raising the eligibility age for Medicare during budget negotiations with Republicans.

Now, with new leverage from Obama's big election victory and a playing field for negotiations that's more favorable in other ways, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats are taking a harder line.