Inside-Outside Game for Republicans on Medicare

The reports that Republicans were abandoning Medicare reform in advance of today’s White House summit were quickly refuted by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “Eric made very clear that our position is the Ryan budget which -- as you know -- assumes a debt limit increase and includes Medicare, Medicaid and $715 billion in mandatory savings,” Cantor’s spokesperson told Politico.

As Pema Levy wrote, the GOP faces massive public opposition as it seeks to reduce Medicare coverage. However, Republicans are in a tight corner as efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher system are consistently popular among the most vocal elements of the right. Conservative websites rushed to favorably highlight Cantor's denial this morning, and if The Washington Post's original report had been left as the official record, those same writers would have spent Thursday morning disparaging the party. From Hot Air:

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. Not a situation that Cantor or any of the leadership wants, I’m sure.

Paul Ryan's vision for turning Medicare into a voucher system will likely be ditched during the negotiations on increasing the budget ceiling. But unlike Democrats who are willing time and time again to turn their back on the progressive wing in order to strike a deal, Republicans in Congress exist in a state of perpetual fear of offending their base, especially after the string of primary challenges during the 2010 election. At the end of the day, Republicans can't force Medicare reform into the deal without losing scores of independent voters in 2012, but for the time being, Republicans will need to avoid admitting such in public.

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