If you’re having a hard time buying that one party was more reasonable than another in the Super Committee negotiations, read Republican co-chair Jeb Hensarling’s obituary for the panel in the Wall Street Journal. Specifically, check out this part about the GOP’s big ask:
Democrats on the committee made it clear that the new spending called for in the president’s health law was off the table. Still, committee Republicans offered to negotiate a plan on the other two health-care entitlements–Medicare and Medicaid–based upon the reforms included in the budget the House passed earlier this year….
Republicans on the committee also offered to negotiate a plan based on the bipartisan “Protect Medicare Act” authored by Alice Rivlin, one of President Bill Clinton’s budget directors, and Pete Domenici, a former Republican senator from New Mexico. Rivlin-Domenici offered financial support to seniors to purchase quality, affordable health coverage in Medicare-approved plans. These seniors would be able to choose from a list of Medicare-guaranteed coverage options, similar to the House budget’s approach–except that Rivlin-Domenici would continue to include a traditional Medicare fee-for-service plan among the options.
He and others have alluded to this before, but never so bluntly. It explains why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued such a blistering statement after the Committee’s demise. “Republicans relentlessly sought to end Medicare as we know it by privatizing the program and putting seniors and future generations at the mercy of insurance companies,” he said.
Both the GOP budget, authored by Paul Ryan, and the Rivlin-Domenici plan are fundamental overhauls of the health system for the elderly. Ryan’s plan phases out traditional Medicare altogether, and replaces it with subsidized private insurance. Rivlin-Domenici partially privatizes the program, while leaving traditional Medicare in place as an option for seniors — but it also creates incentives for people to switch into the new private system. In other words, Republicans began with a hardline conservative position and moved off it only a bit. Democrats rejected both, in favor of cuts and changes to the program that preserved the current system.
The Democrats’ big ask, by contrast, was to increase taxes to a point between the effective rates under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. It’s not even really close.