House To Vote on Debt Ceiling; Medicare Cuts Hurdle for Budget Talks
The legislation likely will fail, as all Republicans and a number of Democrats are expected to vote against it. The vote will occur a day before House members meet with President Obama at the White House to discuss budget matters.
As a result, budget talks will continue among a bipartisan group of six lawmakers led by Vice President Biden.
Both Democrats and Republicans in the group have said they are developing a plan that includes at least $1 trillion in spending reductions. Biden said the cuts are only a "down payment" for an agreement on larger reductions before Aug. 2, a deadline set by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for increasing the debt limit (Kane, Washington Post, 5/30).
GOP Medicare Proposal Still a Wedge Issue
However, cuts to entitlement programs likely will still be a stumbling block in continued negotiations.
Republicans continue to pledge their support for a proposal that would turn Medicare into a voucher system, despite widespread criticism by Democrats and constituents, The Hill reports (Stanage, The Hill, 5/31).
The proposal -- which is included in the House-approved GOP fiscal year 2012 budget resolution (H Con Res 34) and is a centerpiece of House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget blueprint -- would give beneficiaries fixed, lump-sum vouchers to purchase private health insurance (California Healthline, 5/23).
Last week, Democrat Kathy Hochul won a special election in New York's most conservative congressional district largely because of her opponent's support for the Medicare plan. The election was viewed by many as a referendum on the proposal and a warning from seniors that Republicans should avoid making cuts to popular entitlement programs (California Healthline, 5/25).
Despite that result, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Sunday said they are standing behind Ryan's plan (The Hill, 5/31).
McConnell said that Medicare reform is necessary to preserve the program and shrink deficits. He said, "All this silly talk about how Medicare is not going to be part of the solution is nonsense," adding, "Medicare will be part of any [budget] agreement" (Shiner, Politico, 5/27).
He also noted that if both parties agree that Medicare must be changed, there will be little "political fallout" during the 2012 election. He said that "the American people can decide whether they will want to punish both sides for having done that because it will take both sides to do it" (AP/Washington Post, 5/27).
Reaction to GOP's Continued Support of Ryan Plan
Some experts support the GOP's strategy to stick by the Ryan proposal, The Hill reports. Political strategist Mark McKinnon said that Republicans "should not run away" from the proposal. He added, "That is a lose-lose proposition," noting that the GOP already is associated with the divisive plan, so it should embrace the "bold and courageous" proposal (The Hill, 5/31).
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) advised Republicans to drop the plan to overhaul Medicare. Schumer said, "The only way we are going to come to an agreement on the budget and the debt ceiling is if [Republicans] take the Ryan plan off the table and take it off now." He added that Democrats "will oppose them in the budget negotiations if they don't abandon Ryan" (Wolfgang, Washington Times, 5/29).
Meanwhile, Democratic strategists see the GOP's embrace of the Ryan plan as an opportunity.
On Thursday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel said that Democrats might be able to win back the House in 2012 because of the GOP's support for the proposal. He said, "I fundamentally believe the House of Representatives is in play." However, he said he is not yet ready to predict that Democrats will win enough seats to regain control of the chamber (Haberkorn, Politico, 5/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.