Republicans Rethink the Politics of the Ryan Plan

The GOP ranks are stuck with a vote to cut Medicare in a budget that won't pass

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That House Republicans are giving up on their push to make sweeping changes to Medicare alone would infuriate their base, which demands spending cuts, but even worse, the budget plan drawn up by Rep. Paul Ryan won't even balance the budget without the entitlement overhaul. Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler reports that without the Medicare reform, the extra spending over the next several year--plus interest on larger-than-expected debt--means the Ryan plan won't balance the budget anymore.

After facing town halls full of angry voters over the proposed Medicare changes--even Donald Trump wouldn't mess with the program--Republicans are backing down from the proposal. They've indicated they're willing to raise the debt ceiling without forcing entitlement reform--and the debt limit vote was their best chance to extract such a concession from Democrats. But Thursday, the House Ways & Means Committee chair Dave Camp said his committee wouldn't even bother picking up the plan, since there's no chance the Democratic-controlled Senate will pass it. House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor both said that, while Republicans still strongly support Ryan's plan, they're facing the political reality that such an overhaul is impossible with President Obama in the White House. "It is a big problem," a Republican congressional aide told The New York Times' Carl Hulse and Jennifer Steinhauer. "Things are unraveling."

Rank-and-file Republicans have already voted for the politically-risky bill. The consequences of the vote are on display right now in the special election for the New York district once held by Chris Lee, who resigned after a topless photo of the Republican was posted on Gawker. What should have been an easy win for Republican candidate Jane Corwin as turned into a very competitive race as Democrat Kathy Hochul has tied Corwin to Ryan's Medicare proposal.

Why did Republicans take the vote? The New Republic's Jonathan Chait says it's possible they thought they were creating more leverage to negotiate over the budget, or were painting Democrats as soft on budget cutting, or were trying to make it easier to pass the bill in 2013, if there's a Republican in the White House. But, "I think Republicans more likely just got caught drinking their own Kool-Aid about how the public agrees with their vision."

Photo by Jane Corwin via Facebook

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