The effort to shrink the U.S. budget deficit must include changes to the Medicare and Medicaid programs, said SenatorTom Coburn, one of a group of six senators trying to strike a compromise on federal spending cuts.

“You can’t have Medicare out of the equation,” Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and one of the so-called Gang of Six senators seeking a deal, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program broadcast yesterday. “You can’t have Medicaid out of the equation. To lead on this issue and create a false predicate that says we can solve our problems without addressing our entitlements hurts the country.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, has proposed cutting spending by $6 trillion over a decade in part by privatizing Medicare and capping Medicaid spending. Republicans reject Obama’s push for tax increases on the wealthiest Americans to help reduce debt.

Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat and chairman of the budget committee, said on “Meet the Press” that the U.S. is “headed for a fiscal cliff” if it doesn’t address the deficit. Conrad and Coburn, who is also on the budget committee, are both in the bipartisan Gang of Six.

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