While elected Republicans claim they, in general, want entitlement reform, they are currently refusing to put forward any proposals that might actually make it into a final deal. From Politico:
A top Democratic official said talks have stalled on this question since Obama and congressional leaders had their friendly-looking post-election session at the White House. “Republicans want the president to own the whole offer upfront, on both the entitlement and the revenue side, and that’s not going to happen because the president is not going to negotiate with himself,” the official said. “There’s a standoff, and the staff hasn’t gotten anywhere. Rob Nabors [the White House negotiator], has been saying: ‘This is what we want on revenues on the down payment. What’s you guys’ ask on the entitlement side?’ And they keep looking back at us and saying: ‘We want you to come up with that and pitch us.’ That’s not going to happen.”
It is important to remember that the Republican base doesn’t want Medicare to be cut. According to a recent Washington Post poll, the Republican base is as opposed to raising the Medicare retirement age as the Democratic base. An overwhelming 68 percent of Republicans don’t make the Medicare age to be increased. The Republican base does tend to be older and therefore more reliant on Medicare.
Politically, the GOP also knows cutting Medicare is unpopular. That is why they successfully ran against the “Obamacare cuts to Medicare” in both 2010 and 2012.
Republican politicians do want to radically change Medicare by privatizing it, but they have shown little interest in minor reforms. If anything, slightly improving the current Medicare structure could undermine calls for a big restructuring.
The simple fact is that the main force behind moderate cuts to Medicare in the past several years has been almost exclusively President Obama. Obama has all the leverage he needs to get the high-end tax increases without needing to make any concessions, yet he is still pushing for a large bargain that includes Medicare cuts. Since it is Obama who seems to want moderate cuts to Medicare the most, it appears the GOP is going to make him own them.
I won’t be surprised if 2014 turned into the third straight election where the Republicans campaigned against Democrats attempts to cut Medicare.