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Parties Ready To Take Budget To Campaign Trail?


If you're just joining us this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. We're continuing our conversation discussing the Republican budget plan that passed in the House yesterday and whether it signals a start of another round of showdowns here. I'm now joined by editor from our Washington desk, S.V. Date. Shirish Date, welcome to the program.

SHIRISH DATE, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

LYDEN: Shirish Date, everyone is saying that this budget is dead on arrival in the Senate. Something profound is going on here in terms of philosophy. Why spend so much time on something that's not going anywhere?

DATE: I think what the Republicans wanted to do was have something they could go into the summer and into the autumn and contrast themselves with the president and with Democrats.

LYDEN: Let's parse this a little bit. What would this actually do for people on Medicaid? You just heard Congressman Young say that it's going to make it more sustainable.

DATE: Right. And in a very technical sense, when you cut the benefit side while keeping the revenue coming in the same, that makes it more sustainable if you were running a deficit earlier. What it means for people actually receiving Medicaid benefits - it means they're going to get fewer of them. There's no other way you can parse that.

I think the Congressman had said that the budget would send it down to the states in the form of block grants. Well, that just doesn't magically make it bigger by sending it to the states, and I think you would see very different outcomes in the different states as to what sort of benefits they're willing to pay for.

LYDEN: What about Medicare? He talked about vouchers, the voucher system in 10 years' time.

DATE: That probably will be the biggest issue with this budget going forward. You know, to be blunt about it, many people receiving Medicaid benefits don't vote, and the people who receive Medicare - many of them vote and this is well known to both parties. This is something that the Democrats are eager to see. This gives them something to point to and say, look, they're cutting your Medicare benefits. They're going to make it more expensive for you, and given the details, they probably will have a fair argument.

LYDEN: You just heard Congressman Young from Indiana say let's take this to the American people. Is that the one thing on which Democrats and Republicans agree?

DATE: That seems to be the case and it probably speaks to just how polarized the electorate has become, because I think the Congressman very honestly believes that his constituents want more than anything to cut the deficit and to cut entitlements such as Medicaid and redo Medicare.

Just as sincerely, the Democrats believe that their constituents want them to preserve Medicare and to make sure that, going forward, the elderly don't have to pay more for the type of care they're getting now.

LYDEN: Would you say that we're having a debate in this country, given what we saw discussed at the Supreme Court this week, about the way - for lack of, perhaps, better words - we take care of each other in this country, to talk about Medicare, Medicaid, programs that had previously been seen as significant pillars of the United States?

DATE: Right. And that's the fundamental question. There are many Republicans who believe that the programs of the 1960s, the Great Society programs, were a mistake and were - and have put us down the wrong road. And Democrats believe those programs have made us a great nation and we need, at all costs, to preserve those. So how do you compromise on something so fundamentally divisive as that? I don't know that you can.

LYDEN: S.V. Date is an editor for NPR's Washington desk. He was with us here in our studio. Thank you very much for coming in.

DATE: It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.