Republicans’ goose is cooked on the Paul Ryan plan to end Medicare and they know it. Democracy Corps just did a survey of House districts and found GOP disapproval numbers rising to 59%. They dug themselves a tremendous hole, and the Senate GOP compounded it by mostly voting with Ryan on his budget plan.
Republicans are trying to wave this away by calling it “Mediscare,” as they have for two decades. But Democrats aren’t engaging in demagoguery, Paul Ryan’s newest talking point. They’re merely telling the truth about what Ryan’s vision would mean for seniors – having to pay either unacceptably high or flat-out unaffordable prices for health insurance, and leaving their futures at the whims of private insurance companies.
So how will Republicans dig themselves out of this hole? Like a cornered animal, they plan to fight. And according to Mitch McConnell, they plan to use the only chip they have left – the debt limit:
In a Capitol briefing with reporters Friday, McConnell declared affirmatively that unspecified Medicare cuts are on the table in bipartisan debt limit negotiations, led by Vice President Joe Biden, and, he expects, will be part of the solution. But in response to a question from TPM, he went further than he has in the past in laying down a marker on that issue. Medicare cuts must be part of that deal to get his support — even if negotiators manage to find trillions of dollars in savings elsewhere, even if his other priorities are met.
“To get my vote, for me, it’s going to take short term [cuts, via spending caps]… Both medium and long-term, entitlements.,” McConnell said. “Medicare will be part of the solution.”
To clarify, I asked “To clarify, if [the Biden group] comes up with big cuts, trillions of dollars worth of cuts, but without substantially addressing Medicare, it won’t get your vote?”
“Correct,” McConnell said.
McConnell wants Democrats to bail out the GOP for their bad decision on the Ryan budget. If Democrats agree to a deal with big Medicare cuts, the political potency of running against the Ryan budget largely dissipates.
There are Medicare “cuts” that may even be worth pursuing, according to Jon Cohn. I don’t agree with his entire list, but I could say that allowing Medicare to bulk purchase prescription drugs would be a benefit to the program. But it would, of course, cut costs. Is that a “cut”? Certainly Republicans would pronounce it that way. Other cuts, like the ones Cohn describes, would reduce corporate welfare and encourage more efficient care. Are those “cuts”? Incidentally, these cuts to providers are part of the Paul Ryan plan. If he tells you different, he’s lying. He “cuts” Medicare, under this standard, as much as the Democrats did in the Affordable Care Act.
But McConnell is talking about something altogether different. He wants real cuts on Medicare for political reasons. He wants something people would feel, like cost-shifting. He wants it to relieve the burden from Republicans of being the party that wants to kill your Medicare. He wants to take the most powerful issue for Democrats, the one that won them a House election this week, off the table.
Will Democrats oblige him?