At her weekly Capitol press briefing Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took her hardest line yet against raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 in a deal to avoid a major automatic fiscal contraction next year.
And for the first time in this round of high-stakes budget negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner she used her clout with House Democrats -- whose votes will be necessary to pass any deal they cut -- to warn them off of major benefit cuts.
"As I have said, don't even think about raising Medicare age," Pelosi said. "We are not throwing America's seniors over the cliff to give a tax cuts to the wealthiest people in America."
Asked in a followup question whether she was worried that Obama's willingness in 2011 to entertain a higher Medicare age and other cuts to social insurance benefits suggests he might agree to similar cuts today, Pelosi issued a subtle warning to both men.
"The President knows our views shares our values, we respect his leadership," she said. "And the Speaker may need our votes to go forward."
In other words, she'll have a big say over whether any deal they strike can pass the House.