Steny Hoyer confirmed today what was already reported by several outlets, that the Biden debt limit talks today will take a look at Medicare.

After arguing that Democrats made significant headway toward extending Medicare’s solvency with the health care law, Hoyer said, “Do I believe that there are other things we can do related to Medicare? The answer is I do. I’m not going to get into articulating each one, but my expectation is they will be under discussion by the Biden group.”

In the Affordable Care Act, Democrats cut future expenditures for Medicare by $500 billion, mainly through eliminating wasteful Medicare Advantage payments. President Obama expressed in his fiscal policy speech a desire to use the Independent Payments Advisory Board (IPAB) to restrain the growth of Medicare spending through a variety of cost-control methods. So the idea that Democrats want to reduce costs of Medicare is nothing new. But Republicans already won an election in 2010 based on the Medicare cuts in the ACA (even though those same cuts are in the Paul Ryan budget). And they don’t seem willing to even allow the IPAB board members a Senate confirmation, which means that those methods of cost control would not be available.

So that means that, in the interest of common ground, we could see a proposal like increasing cost sharing in Medicare. It would be astounding for Democrats to do so, coming off of a successful effort to blame Republicans for… increasing cost sharing in Medicare, by ending the program and giving seniors a too-small coupon to purchase health insurance.

Let’s be clear that ANY Medicare cuts Democrats push forward will get subject to an attack from the left by Republicans, just as they did in 2010. They don’t really care about consistency.

Sen. Chuck Schumer vowed yesterday to make the Medicare changes in Paul Ryan’s budget a defining campaign issue for Senate Republicans in 2012 — but Republicans plan to respond by reviving criticism of cuts to the Medicare Advantage program that were built into the 2010 health care bill…

“He and every other Senate Democrat went on to vote for it.” one Republican staffer emails. “We’d agree with Schumer that in races such as this Medicare will be a key issue.”

Republicans ran hard on the issue of Medicare cuts during the 2010 campaign — and it was part of the reason that senior citizens swung so hard towards GOP candidates.

Republicans are looking very closely at the Biden talks as the potential lifeline to get them out of the mess they created for themselves on Medicare. Democrats could actually hand them that lifeline, foolish as it may be.