House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan to end Medicare and Medicaid as we know them might be slow to accrue supporters within his own party, but Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), a key swing vote in the Senate, indicated to TPM on Tuesday he was at least open to the idea.
“Listen, everything is on the table right now and the people understand everything is on the table,” he said when asked by TPM if he had concerns about privatizing and cutting Medicare. “People recognize that we’re in a financial emergency and as a result of that to say that something is not on the table is really irresponsible and I’m thankful that we have people like Congressman Ryan working and coming up with a plan.”
Nonetheless, Brown suggested Republican leaders’ efforts would be better spent preventing a government shutdown this week than debating new entitlement plans.
“I’m appreciative that they’re finally taking debt and deficit and spending cuts seriously, but let’s be real: we should be focusing on funding the government,” he said. “It’s great to talk about next year, but how about this week? How about getting the leadership together and just focusing on funding the government and doing what the American people expect us to do?”
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) sounded a more enthusiastic tone in discussing Ryan’s proposal.
“It sounds like a good plan to me. Excellent,” he told TPM. Asked whether he would back a Senate version, he replied, “Certainly not every single aspect of it,” but indicated that it still seemed to him a positive step forward. He added that Republicans should not be scared off by discussing Medicare cuts.
“The fact is Medicare is the elephant in the room and we know it has needs to be fixed,” he said, calling Ryan’s plan “a great opener” for hammering out a final deal on entitlements.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.