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Kyl Will Push for Medicare Changes

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The House GOP’s plan to overhaul Medicare isn’t likely to go anywhere in the bipartisan debt limit talks, but that doesn’t mean Medicare reform of some kind won’t be included, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl told reporters Monday.

The Arizona Republican said the GOP recognizes that Democrats likely will block House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposed Medicare overhaul, but Republicans will push for Medicare reforms nonetheless.

Just because the Wisconsin Republican’s proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher for private insurance isn’t likely to get Democratic support, that “doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to tackle it,” Kyl said.

Kyl, who represents Senate Republicans in bipartisan debt talks with Vice President Joseph Biden, predicted that in the end, there will be some Medicare reform as part of any overall deal on raising the debt limit. He said that was because it will be hard for Democrats to justify not including it at all.

“It probably won’t satisfy Republicans as much as we think is necessary,” Kyl said.

His comments came after House Republicans struggled last week to both signal a desire to reach a compromise with Democrats and still stand by Ryan’s controversial Medicare blueprint.

Kyl’s assertions drew a rebuke from Jon Summers, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“So his message to the public is that Republicans will still fight to cut funding for Medicare while continuing to give taxpayer handouts to Big Oil?  Got it,” Summers quipped.

Other Democratic aides said Republicans are starting to realize the political jeopardy that the House budget put them in after some got beaten up on the issue at home during recess.

“There is a strong political reality that seniors and folks across the country don’t like Ryan’s Medicare voucher plan,” one senior Democratic aide said.

With negotiators set to convene again today at Blair House, Republicans made it clear in the first meeting Thursday that they would not accept anything smacking of a tax increase, while Democrats aren’t about to back anything like the vouchers-for-Medicare plan passed by the House.

Both issues seem likely to be resolved by voters in the 2012 elections — leaving it to the negotiators to carve out a smaller deal that includes some upfront spending cuts and spending or deficit caps. Staff talks over the weekend focused on small-ball spending cuts, sources said.

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) tried to amp up the pressure on Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to take a potentially catastrophic default on the federal debt off the table.

Schumer warned that the market could be spooked well in advance of the Aug. 2 deadline set by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

“If nothing is happening, you know, by July 15th or so, I’d say the markets are going to get really, really worried,” Schumer said.

Michael Steel, spokesman for Boehner, was unfazed.

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