Congratulations to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for explicitly calling on Democrats and Republicans to hold hands and jump together on a bipartisan agreement to curb the growth of Medicare spending. He didn’t just say Medicare was on the table, he said he would insist on “significant changes” to the program in exchange for voting to raise the debt ceiling. After some Republicans had backed away from Medicare reform in recent weeks, McConnell insisted action on Medicare take place now in order to deny both parties a political weapon in the 2012 election. McConnell’s comments came after Senate Republicans met with President Obama. His willingness to cooperate on a grand bargain is notable since McConnell was also involved in the deal the president struck in December with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts. McConnell pointed out — correctly — that the options for Medicare reform are well-known, and do not need months of time to be vetted; decisions require compromise, not more information. “The things I’m talking about have already been studied to death. We don’t need any more hearings,” McConnell said. “We know what the options are. The only question is, what will we pick up and agree to on a bipartisan basis?” As I described in my column this week, House Republicans began walking back their intentions to tackle a Medicare overhaul contained in the GOP budget drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and passed by the House last month in recent statements about the political realities that would prevent the plan from being passed by the Senate. They have now declared they remain committed to their plan, which was attacked by Democrats and questioned by some constituents when members returned for the spring recess. Though McConnell made it clear he would not insist on the Ryan plan for Medicare overhaul, and would not insist on changes to Social Security, he said Medicare reforms should include limiting eligibility and reducing benefits. Medicare, which is highly popular, remains politically charged, and McConnell said the debt-ceiling debate provides an opportunity to “do something important for the country together” and address a problem the parties are usually unwilling to touch. “If there is a grand bargain of some kind with the president of the United States, none of it will be usable for either side in next year’s election — none of it.” Bring on the grand bargain.

Bring on the grand bargain – The Hill’s Pundits Blog

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