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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The GOP’s Medicare Mess

Can anyone say today with any degree of certainty where the Republican Party is on “reforming” Medicare?
Sure, nearly all House Republicans are stuck with a vote for a budget resolution whose most visible feature was Paul Ryan’s proposals to voucherize Medicare and turn Medicaid into a block grant. Harry Reid may yet maneuver Senate Republicans into a similar vote.
But in the meantime, the self-same Senate Republicans, most notably the Senator from the Club for Growth, Pat Toomey, and the Senator from the Tea Party, Jim DeMint, are backing a different budget that avoids any long-term changes to Medicare, opting instead for very deep cuts in non-defense discretionary spending.
And now Newt Gingrich has come right out and said what his fellow-candidates-for-president seem to have privately concluded: Ryan’s Medicare plan is “too big a jump” from a political point of view. The hysterical reaction of many conservatives to Gingrich’s remarks has all the signs of an attack on a rogue commander who has sounded a retreat before it can be made to look “orderly” and “strategic.”
I suspect the original idea among Republicans was to embrace a “bold” form of “entitlement reform” in hopes that the White House would give them cover by accepting something a little less “bold” but aimed in the same direction. If so, it hasn’t worked. And if Republicans manage to lose next week’s House special election in New York after a campaign in which their candidate was pounded for supporting Ryan’s budget, the retreat, orderly or not, is likely to begin in earnest.

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