Encouraging news for now, at least until we find out the final details of this deal. Given the option, Republicans will always try to attack the programs that offer a social safety net. The only reason they’re backing off on this is that the opposition to the Medicare voucher plan has been loud and clear. Would that it was as easy to explain why spending caps are not only stupid, they’re immoral.
Don’t ever trust the Republicans to back off for good, even if they’ve gotten the message — for now — that voters won’t stand for Medicare cuts. They’ll just bludgeon the Democrats until they give them another trophy instead:
Senior Republicans conceded Wednesday that a deal is unlikely on a contentious plan to overhaul Medicare and offered to open budget talks with the White House by focusing on areas where both parties can agree, such as cutting farm subsidies.
On the eve of debt-reduction talks led by Vice President Biden, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said Republicans remain convinced that reining in federal retirement programs is the key to stabilizing the nation’s finances over the long term. But he said Republicans recognize they may need to look elsewhere to achieve consensus after President Obama “excoriated us” for a proposal to privatize Medicare.
That search should start, Cantor said, with a GOP list of proposals that would save $715 billion over the next decade by ending payments to wealthy farmers, limiting lawsuits against doctors, and expanding government auctions of broadcast spectrum to telecommunications companies, among other items.
In other words, they’re going to rape and pillage as much as the Democrats will let them. Sadly, we can never underestimate the ability of Democratic senators to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory:
But at least four sources, three of them from Capitol Hill, offered similar descriptions of a final arrangement that is beginning to take form.
In addition to raising the debt ceiling from its current limit of $14.3 trillion, lawmakers would include legislative language in the bill that called for caps on government spending in over the next one or two years. The level at which that cap would be set is unclear and is likely to be a major fault line during discussions. In addition, lawmakers will include a debt failsafe “trigger” that would kick in once those caps expire. Such a policy — which would require that the ratio of debt-to-GDP be reduced to a certain level if Congress cannot stabilize it by the end of the decade — could take several forms. Democrats, however, will insist that revenue raisers or adjustments to the tax code be part of the deal.
“That’s the ball game,” one top Democratic aide said of ensuring that tax policy be part of the final arrangement to raise the debt ceiling.
“[T]hey want to make it a trigger that allows for revenue,” added another Democratic Senate aide. “But this arrangement wouldn’t preclude them from saying they will cap spending for, say, 2012. It would allow them to say here is your spending.”