Moving Closer to a Debt Deal by Delaying a Medicare Debate

Considering major changes to Medicare would be delayed until after 2012

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The White House and House Republicans are working on a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling that would delay a decision on how to make major changes to Medicare and Medicaid till after the 2012 election, The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel and Damian Paletta report. In exchange for upping the debt limit but leaving entitlements alone for now, Republicans would get spending cuts and deficit targets.

Rep. Paul Ryan, who authored a 2012 budget passed by the House that would make major changes to Medicare and Medicaid, indicated his goals had been scaled back: "We're not going to get a grand slam agreement. ... My hope at this moment is to get a single or a double." The deal would likely include cuts or spending limits on programs that are approved yearly, like defense and regulatory agencies, as well as on mandatory spending, like farm subsidies and food stamps, other programs that aren't appropriated yearly. Another measure would establish a target of slashing the deficit below 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2015, with automatic cuts triggered if the Congressional Budget Office predicts that goal won't be met. (The White House would prefer both tax increases and spending cuts to take effect in those conditions.)

Ryan said a deal could be reached by August, but the Journal cautions that a lot of negotiating will have to take place to iron out the details. And neither side wants their base to look like they're caving. An illustration of that comes from Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall, who noticed a dispute over a budget headline in The Washington Post Wednesday night.

"Shortly after 9 PM this evening the Washington Post emailed a breaking news alert which read 'Medicare dropped from GOP budget proposal.' That kicked off a furious push back from the office of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). And shortly after 10:30 PM the Post sent out a revised email with a new headline: 'Republican leaders seeking compromise in deficit talks.' In the body of the email there was an editorial note: 'The headline on an earlier alert incorrectly described the GOP position in deficit talks.'

It's not clear to me how much the article itself changed. My sense is little or none at all. ... From a distance it looks like Cantor was trying to signal without quite saying it that they're not going to make the fight on Medicare--something to signal to Republicans in and out of Congress as well as to the President and his party. Only the story turned up in the Post less like implicit repositioning than flat out surrender."

(For what it's worth, the headline now reads "Budget talks: Republicans offer to seek common ground with Democrats.")

Hot Air's Jazz Shaw is not ready to believe the House GOP would cave so quickly. "This may have been a case of wishful thinking on the part of the [Post]. In any event, some sort of grand compromise is going to have to be reached if they expect to make any progress, but the Republican base is going to simply explode if the first move the GOP makes is to take entitlement reform off the table."

Photo by Getty Images

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.