"Three weeks ago Leader McConnell proclaimed he would not support a debt ceiling agreement unless it included cuts to Medicare, but he refused to specify what types of cuts he had in mind beyond the House-passed plan that would end the very program as we know it," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). "So Senator McConnell is saying if he can't get the full Ryan plan, he at least wants a plan that makes major cuts to seniors' benefits. Basically he's saying if he can not dismantle Medicare all at once, he wants to do it in pieces."
Schumer, joined by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) and DSCC chair Patty Murray (WA) said Democrats could support more Medicare savings along the lines of those in President Obama's health care law -- cuts which Republicans attacked to great political advantage during the 2010 midterm campaign. But no benefit cuts.
"If Senator McConnell has other ideas for Medicare in mind, he should say what they are," Schumer said. "Let's hear them!"
Now, neither Schumer nor McConnell are negotiating the debt limit deal for their party. But both have clout with their surrogates. House Majority Eric Cantor (R-VA), on the other hand, is negotiating that deal. And he suggested strongly on Monday that benefit cuts won't be at the top of their list.
"As you know, the health care entitlement area is extremely complex in terms of payment systems, reimbursement systems, delivery incentives, disincentives, and the rest," he told reporters at his weekly Capitol briefing. "There is plenty of room for savings and accomplishment of efficiency in these programs. So anyone saying that they can't see anywhere that you can make these government programs more efficient, I just disagree with. And I see the numbers in these discussions. There's room for us to agree on trillions of dollars of savings."