GOP Already Giving Up Medicare Overhaul?

by Daniel Foster

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it sure looks that way:

Senior Republicans conceded Wednesday that a deal is unlikely on a contentious plan to overhaul Medicare and offered to open budget talks with the White House by focusing on areas where both parties can agree, such as cutting farm subsidies.

On the eve of debt-reduction talks led by Vice President Biden, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said Republicans remain convinced that reining in federal retirement programs is the key to stabilizing the nation’s finances over the long term. But he said Republicans recognize they may need to look elsewhere to achieve consensus after President Obama “excoriated us” for a proposal to privatize Medicare.

That search should start, Cantor said, with a list of GOP proposals that would save $715 billion over the next decade by ending payments to wealthy farmers, limiting lawsuits against doctors, and expanding government auctions of broadcast spectrum to telecommunications companies, among other items.

Democrats said they were encouraged by the  move, which could smooth the way to a compromise allowing Congress to raise the legal limit on government borrowing and avoid a national default.

“There’s common ground there,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, who is representing House Democrats in the Biden talks.

With Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House, it’s an incontrovertible fact that the Ryan Medicare plan was DOA. But there is no advantage in caving on it before the first day of debt-reduction talks. The day actually started with a good piece of news for Republicans in the form of Senator Conrad’s budget proposal, which was marginally more responsible than President Obama’s and drew the ire of rank and file Senate Democrats. It nevertheless established a new left edge of the bargaining window,  and effectively tossed out the Obama proposal. This announcement would seem to do just the opposite, establishing a new right edge that is considerably less conservative than the Ryan plan.

UPDATE: As Mike notes above, the Post story itself is less definitive than the headline that came in the original e-mail alert — “Breaking News: Medicare dropped from GOP budget proposal” — and in fact, there was a rare correction issued to the effect of:

[Note: The headline on an earlier alert incorrectly described the GOP position in deficit talks.]

Good.

I also just got a note from Cantor’s press shop that says definitively: “To be clear, the Republican position is the Ryan budget, period.”