May 6, 2011 in Nation/World

GOP backs off on vouchers

Medicare plan irked older voters
Andrew Taylor Associated Press
Associated Press photo

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., looks on Thursday as Vice President Joe Biden meets with members of Congress to strike a deal on deficit reduction.
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – The GOP plan to replace Medicare with vouchers will have to wait, party leaders acknowledged Thursday as lawmakers and the White House bowed to political realities in pursuing a deal to allow more government borrowing in exchange for big spending cuts.

Both sides hinted at movement and Vice President Joe Biden reported progress from an initial negotiating session.

Spending cuts and increasing the amount of money the government can keep borrowing to pay its bills are “practically and politically connected,” Biden said at the start of budget meetings with lawmakers at Blair House, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

The House Republican whose committee oversees Medicare said he’s open to other approaches besides the voucher plan that recently passed the House after a debate that appears to have hurt the party with older voters.

Michigan Rep. Dave Camp, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, said he supports the GOP approach but isn’t willing to go to the mat for legislation that has no prospect of becoming law.

“I’m not interested in laying down more markers,” Camp said. “I’m interested in solutions. … Let’s figure out where there is common ground and let’s get there as soon as we can.”

Asked about Camp’s comments, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said they are “a recognition of the political realities that we face.” Nonetheless, Boehner said, the GOP Medicare remake remains on the table.

President Barack Obama and lawmakers of both parties face an Aug. 2 deadline to enact legislation that permits the government to increase its borrowing authority and meet its obligations to lenders. Failure to raise the debt limit beyond the current $14.3 trillion would call into question the creditworthiness of the U.S. government and trigger an economic crisis.

“All of us understand we have got to achieve results,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said after the meeting. The two sides agreed “to find commonality” and there was “general agreement things have to change,” he added.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner took some pressure off the talks when he told Congress this week that the government can meet its obligations through Aug. 2, by using a series of bookkeeping maneuvers. That’s nearly a month longer than the July 8 deadline Geithner had cited previously.

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