Two More GOP Senators Back Off Paul Ryan’s Medicare Plan

Two more Republican Senators are backing away from Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget and its plan to cut and privatize Medicare, suggesting on Thursday that they may propose their own alternatives.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) told TPM that while he would vote for the House budget if it comes to the Senate floor to “move the ball down the field,” his own preference on Medicare was a different proposal that would give seniors the option to remain in the traditional government plan.

“I think there are other proposals that deserve serious consideration and I’m waiting to see what those are and I might vote for those as well,” he said. “Senator Domenici has a proposal for example, that would allow seniors to go into the marketplace and find a premium support plan much like the Ryan bill but still have the fallback of a traditional Medicare benefit. I like that idea better, frankly, than the House Budget.”Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), one of the GOP’s most experienced budget hands, having previously served as OMB director under President Bush, told TPM that he and his colleagues — while not ruling out Ryan’s budget — are looking at several alternatives.

“There is a discussion of two or three different alternatives being offered, and I think that a number of us that are concerned about this impending fiscal crisis that we face are going to be supportive of conservative fiscal proposals,” he said. Among the plans under discussion, “some will be different on Medicare, others will have balance sooner.” He added that the bipartisan Gang of Six’s budget proposal, should they issue one, could also be a factor.

So far Susan Collins (R-ME) is the only Republican Senator to declare her outright opposition to the budget, but Portman and Alexander’s comments suggest that she’s not alone in her concerns about its Medicare provisions. Their remarks come at a critical point for the House GOP budget: earlier in the day, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), said that the House Ways and Means committee he chairs would not take up Ryan’s Medicare proposal due to a lack of support in the Senate. The same morning, the Washington Post suggested Republicans would drop the proposal in negotiations with Democrats. Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office denied the article’s claim, saying they still backed their budget as the starting point for talks.

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