Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to say Sunday whether he supports the Medicare component of the House GOP budget proposal, and he reiterated that any real movement on looming fiscal issues would take place in closed-door meetings being led by Vice President Joseph Biden.
The Senate is likely to vote on several budget plans, including the House-passed proposal authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday,” but he dismissed their prospects. “Candidly ... none of these budgets are going to become law,” he said.
“In the Senate, we have other budgets that Republicans are pushing,” he said, noting that Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) had a “very thoughtful proposal” and that his Kentucky colleague, Sen. Rand Paul, has proposed a budget as well. “What I have said to our members is that we’re not going to be able to coalesce behind just one.
“The real action on deficit reduction is down at the White House in meetings headed by the vice president,” he added.
McConnell emphasized that Medicare’s path is unsustainable, and he linked an overhaul of the program to ongoing talks to raise the debt ceiling. “To get my vote on raising the debt ceiling, we’re going to have to have significant changes to both Medicare and Medicaid,” he said.
Although McConnell didn’t outright endorse Ryan’s Medicare proposal, he did say it would empower seniors, and he accused President Barack Obama of trying to “ration” Medicare.
“Let’s just stipulate that no one is trying to throw Grandma off the cliff. Medicare is in serious trouble. Serious trouble — and soon,” he said. “The president would ration care, would adversely impact Grandma. What Paul Ryan would do would be to empower Grandma in the private market.”
“Regardless of which approach you take, Medicare is going to change,” the Senate GOP leader said. “Or it won’t be there for anyone.”
But beyond the issue of Medicare, he repeatedly emphasized that compromise on the debt ceiling and deficit reduction is most likely to come out of the Biden-led meetings.
“Only the president can sign something into law,” he said. “All of these discussions that are going on and all these budgets that are being talked about are interesting, but the president is only at the table one place, and that is at the deficit reduction talks. And something significant is going to come out of that, or you’re not going to be able to get the votes to raise the debt ceiling.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.