That makes the special election in New York especially interesting. Make no mistake about it — Medicare drove the vote, enabling a Democrat to win 48 percent in a three-way race in a strongly Republican district. It is not just Democrats who say Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget ends Medicare as we know it; Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said the same thing. And Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain called the plan not “premium support” but a voucher system.
For Republicans, the best way to get out from under their Medicare (and soon-to-be Medicaid) problem is to find a broader budget deal that includes, of necessity, some measure of entitlement reform and cutbacks in the future growth of Medicare and Medicaid that both parties buy into. But that will mean embracing many elements of the Affordable Care Act that they are trying to repeal and accepting a serious measure of tax increases.
Will Democrats take the opportunity for a compromise with embattled Republicans when the temptation to demagogue Medicare to the limit is so great? Can Republicans take on Grover Norquist for a higher purpose? Any debt limit compromise will have to include a credible trigger; can we achieve a version of PAYGO? These are the big questions ahead.
Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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