House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s spokesman Brad Dayspring says his office’s principal objection to today’s Washington Post article wasn’t the claim that Republicans will be hard-pressed to win a fight over a dramatic reshaping of Medicare, but rather an early headline on the piece — since corrected — that stated “Medicare Dropped from GOP Budget Proposal.”
Dayspring says Republicans are well aware that Democrats in the Senate and the White House aren’t budging on that issue. “It seems unlikely that the President’s going to come around,” and embrace the GOP’s Medicare plan, Dayspring told TPM Thursday.
Thus, bipartisan budget negotiations with the White House — which begin today — will be centered on other issues: spending cuts, taxes, other Medicare savings. And indeed, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) says he will not push the GOP Medicare plan through the committee process.
“There are other things in the budget,” Dayspring said. But that doesn’t mean the GOP is in any way disowning their policy objective with respect to Medicare, or won’t attempt to achieve it if they see an opening.
So if the House GOP’s official position remains the Medicare-abolishing plan put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), but their negotiating position recognizes that plan is a non-starter this year, where does that leave Republicans? An optimistic reading is they’ve signaled to their base where their priorities lie far enough in advance of 2012 that seniors will have forgotten. A pessimistic view is that virtually the entire House GOP voted last month to phase out the popular Medicare program and are already having to distance themselves from that vote. The wildcard here is how well Democrats exploit this politically uncomfortable position Republicans have put themselves in. Given Democrats poor track record of making political losers stick to the GOP, it may not be much of wildcard.
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 email@example.com.