After two weeks of House Republicans getting hammered over their vote for a fiscal 2012 budget that would effectively privatize Medicare, it didn't seem all the surprising that some party leaders would signal that they were backing away from the plan.
The Washington Post reported this morning that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said, "Republicans recognize they may need to look elsewhere to achieve consensus" after the pummeling delivered by President Obama on Medicare.
But Cantor's office was quick to try to walk that story back today. "As Leader Cantor has made clear, the House GOP position is the Ryan budget, period," said a post on the Majority Leader's blog, referring to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), author of the plan passed by the House April 15.
So where are House Republicans really when it comes to Medicare cuts as formal negotiations on cutting the deficit begin with Vice President Biden at Blair House?
Clearly, they don't want us to know. And they don't want to tip their hand to the Democrats sitting across the table.
"I'm not negotiating with myself here," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) told frustrated health reporters at a breakfast briefing sponsored by the policy journal Health Affairs Thursday. Camp is nominally in charge of the task of writing major Medicare changes into actual legislative form.
When a reporter who wanted to make sure he had "perfect clarity" on the congressman's position on Medicare changes pressed him for details, Camp replied in a moment of levity and candor, "I don't know if that's my goal."
Camp's major talking point was that he voted for the budget plan that would privatize Medicare, and that if that can't pass the Senate and be signed into law it's up to the opponents to offer alternatives.
"We've put our proposal out there; our flag in the ground," he said. "And the burden of proof, if you will, is on the Senate and the Administration to come forward with a comprehensive solution that actually does get us to reducing our debt and does get our budget to balance."
The negotiators have until Aug. 2. That's when the Treasury Department says the nation's debt ceiling needs to be raised by Congress in order to avoid having the U.S. default on its debts.