Monday, Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Paul Ryan (R-WI) were almost reading from two different scripts on entitlements. But in reality, Republicans seem to be coalescing around the same objective: to put Social Security and maybe even Medicare on the chopping block.
Cantor, the Majority Leader, announced at a pen and pad with reporters yesterday that the Republican budget would cut entitlements — and Social Security in particular. Ryan, who chairs the Budget Committee, wouldn’t commit to it.
But Ryan isn’t exactly afraid of proposing controversial entitlement reforms.
“Anybody who knows anything about me knows that we need to tackle entitlements or they’re going to tackle us,” he told reporters yesterday.
So what about the Senate?
Ryan’s Republican counterpart in the upper chamber, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), hasn’t been as aggressive. At a press conference yesterday, he praised Ryan repeatedly for proposing bold steps to cut entitlement spending. I asked him if he supported Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future in particular.
“I think his plan can work and would work, and so it’s far better than where we are today,” Sessions said. “I believe we could achieve greater discretionary spending reductions today than even his plan calls for, and I intend to give personal attention to how we work to put our great Medicare, Social Security programs on a sound footing.”
So we’re nearing unanimity among top Republicans on this point, which suggests there will be a fight over entitlements as soon as this spring.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.