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Posted at 11:58 AM ET, 05/05/2011

Dave Camp is out (on Medicare)

The second paragraphs of this post is updated to reflect that
it is quoted material from a story in the Huffington Post.

Forget about the back-and-forth reports about House GOPers negotiating position on a budget deal; the big budget news today is buried in a Sam Stein story about what’s happening at House Ways and Means. The news? Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp apparently has no intention of moving legislation on Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan:

Camp also threw a bit of cold water on the Medicare reforms included in Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) proposed budget. He said that legislation to turn Medicare into a voucher system would likely not get a hearing in his committee. “I’m not really interested in just laying down more markers,” said Camp. “I’d rather have the committee working with the Senate and the president, focusing on savings and reforms that can be signed into law.”

Here’s the context, for those who are not edge-of-your-seat budget junkies. As you may know, the House passed a “budget” last month. What’s that? A budget resolution is, basically, instructions from Congress to Congress about what sorts of budget-related bills they should pass later in the year. Every year, Congress has to pass appropriations bills to give government departments and agencies money to keep functioning for the following year; Congress also may, if it chooses (and the president agrees), pass laws changing the automatic portions of government spending and revenue-raising. The budget resolution doesn’t do any of that; it only is a commitment, which may or may not be followed, about what it will do later in the year.

Moreover, the budget resolution is generally (and, in this case, certainly) at a level of detail fully insufficient to act as actual legislation. That’s not a bad thing; the budget committee and its chair don’t really have the staff support or expertise to actually put together complex tax or program legislation. Normal procedure would be for the substantive committees — and with both taxes and Medicare we’re talking about Ways and Means — to start putting together bills to actually carry out the instructions of the budget resolution.

Sort of. Another way to look at it is that normal procedure would be to pass a budget resolution in the House and then reconcile that with a budget resolution passed by the Senate (it doesn’t go to the president). That would be the actual congressional budget resolution. It’s unlikely we’ll get one this year, but if we do it certainly won’t include the Ryan Medicare plan.

Still, Ryan’s VoucherCare plan could certainly pass without a budget resolution. What it can’t do is pass without an actual bill. Dave Camp’s decision not to supply negotiators with a bill — if it holds — really is close to a surrender on this issue. Granted, negotiators could theoretically agree to reforms and then go back to the committees to write them up, but that’s a lot harder. And, anyway, if House Republicans really believed they were going to get their plan passed, they would be moving ahead with it.

Of course, that still leaves basically the entire House Republican conference with a Medicare vote hung around their necks and no actual results to show for it. We’ll see, but I’m guessing that Paul Ryan is going to have a lot of Republicans quite unhappy with him about that.

By  |  11:58 AM ET, 05/05/2011

 
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