WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Sunday that the Medicare reform plan authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan would be "on the table" with respect to negotiations over raising the debt ceiling.
"We are going to discuss what ought to be done," McConnell said during an appearance on Meet The Press. "I can assure you that to get my vote to raise the debt ceiling, for whatever that is worth… Medicare will be a part of it."
Using the Ryan plan as an option for debt ceiling negotiations is a new marker for GOP leaders, who have long insisted legislation should include strict spending caps. McConnell's remarks suggest not only that GOP leadership is looking for cover for the party's Medicare voucher proposal -- forcing Democrats to either support elements of the plan or risk default -- but also that the two parties may be moving further apart as that deadline nears.
Indeed, elsewhere on Sunday, presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty reiterated his skepticism that reaching the debt ceiling would cause much economic disruption at all.
“I don't think we should raise the debt ceiling,” Pawlenty told ABC's This Week. “And if the Congress moves in that direction, and the president, they'd better get something really good for it and it better be permanent and it better be structural, like a balanced budget amendment and like permanent caps and limits on spending that are specific, not just aspirational.”
"[T]here are some serious voices challenging" the idea that hitting the debt ceiling would be catastrophic, he added. "And the answer is nobody really knows because we've not been at this point before."
Democrats, for their part, continued to pound away at the Ryan plan on Sunday, arguing that it was a non-starter as part of both the budget proposal and the debt ceiling discussions.
Sen. Chuck Schumer's office flagged the McConnell quote well before it aired on television in D.C. (the New York Democrat visited Meet The Press after McConnell). And the Senator himself released a statement shortly thereafter.
“Leader McConnell continues to embrace his party’s plan to end Medicare as we know it, and again refused to take it off the table," said Schumer. "A deal on deficit reduction is only possible if Republicans remove Paul Ryan’s plan from consideration so we can return our focus to ways to achieve savings that extend the life of Medicare in its current form.”