President Barack Obama may have cut off Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) at Thursday’s health care summit, but Meet the Press gave McCain the last word this Sunday. During yesterday’s appearance McCain announced that he will introduce legislation preventing the Democrats from using reconciliation to change Medicare spending:
MCCAIN: And let me also say that Robert Byrd also in the ’70s exempted Social Security. Social Security cannot be considered in reconciliation. We should do the same thing with Medicare. Lindsay Graham and I will be introducing legislation. Entitlements should not be part of a reconciliation process, i.e., 51 votes. It’s too important.
As McCain gears up for the toughest re-election campaign of his career, he has abandoned his support for cutting Medicare and Medicaid by some $1.3 trillion over 10 years and has grown increasingly protective of the government-sponsored program. At the summit, the Senator accused Obama of approving an ‘unsavory’ special deal for Floridians on Medicare Advantage and has spent hours defending the Medicare program during floor debate.
To my ears, the McCain/Graham amendment is another political ploy that’s designed to communicate a message rather than stop the reconciliation process. After all, Congress has already approved the Medicare changes in the Senate health care bill and the reconciliation package of fixes will only include a change to the payroll tax (used to fund the Medicare program). A McCain/Grahm amendment that prohibits reconciliation changes to the Medicare trust fund could complicate the package, but it won’t derail the entire effort.
But on the whole, this is really a cynical move (and highly unlikely, since any rule change would require 67 votes). Republicans have consistantly supported far larger cuts to the Medicare program than what Democrats are currently proposing and are always complaining that the Medicare “entitlement” program will bankrupt the nation. Now they’re preparing to unveil an amendment designed to prohibit Democrats from reducing Medicare spending and extending the life of the program.
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.