by Yuval Levin
Ramesh, I agree. The talk by various journalists of Republicans backing away from the Medicare reforms in their budget has been a little strange. Do they mean that not turning the proposal into specific legislation right away and voting on it is a retreat? Surely that’s a misunderstanding of what a budget resolution is about, especially in a divided congress. Did anyone—even Paul Ryan himself—expect the Medicare reforms proposed in the budget to be moved as legislation in this Congress? I seriously doubt it.
The budget resolution describes the Republicans’ vision for the country’s fiscal future, setting out what they would do if they were in power. Given that they are not in power, they are obviously not going to get all that done, and will instead have to take incremental steps in the general direction they lay out—finding those areas where they can make progress and making the most of them, while opposing Democratic efforts to push in the opposite direction. Since it’s perfectly clear that the White House and Senate Democrats consider the Medicare reform in Ryan’s budget a complete non-starter, it wouldn’t make much sense to make that reform the Republican chip in negotiations over the debt limit and the like. There are other parts of the budget, including portions of the Obamacare repeal, discretionary cuts, the Medicaid reforms, tax reforms, and other things, that could serve as far more effective bargaining tools until a better president and Senate are elected.
House Republicans have made clear that they support the Medicare reforms in the budget, and it’s likely that any serious Republican presidential candidate will have to do the same as a result. That makes this reform part of the Republican policy agenda from now on—which was the reason to put it in the budget resolution. But not every part of that agenda has to be pursued at every instance. I really don’t see any change in position in anything Republican leaders have had to say on the subject in recent days. Is not doing everything all the time a form of retreat?