"There are going to have to be budget process reforms," said Boehner, speaking dismissively of the "spending caps" proposed by Bob Corker and Claire McCaskill. "I won't tie myself down in terms of what those are. I don't want phony caps, I don't want phony targets. All the gimmicks that have been used in the past have never worked. Congress has found a way to wiggle out of all of them."
What to do, then, if spending caps were just gimmickry?
"The only way to do this is the right way," said Boehner, "and that's to go in and have real program changes that put these entitlement programs on a much stronger foundation, where they can [be] preserved for the tens of millions of Americans who count on them."
As Weigel pointed out, the GOP's plan for entitlement reform is embodied in the Ryan plan, which would end Medicare as we know it. It's not clear that Boehner will insist on the Ryan plan itself or some other sorts of cuts, but he doesn't seem to be alone: Mitch McConnell is also saying Medicare cuts will be necessary to get GOP support for raising the debt limit:
The top Republican in the Senate says it'll take cuts both to agencies' budgets and to long-term spending on programs like Medicare and Medicaid to win his vote to permit the government to keep going into debt to meet its obligations.
Sen. Mitch McConnell issued his demands after a Thursday morning meeting with President Barack Obama.
McConnell said the need to raise the so-called debt ceiling is a "major opportunity" for Republicans and Democrats to come together and do something about the spiraling national debt.
Obviously, Republicans are bluffing. Their financial backers would be furious if they refused to raise the debt ceiling and touched of a global economic crisis. So Democrats shouldn't take the GOP threats of economic terror too seriously.
But it's worth remembering that to the extent there are long-term cost issues with Medicare, the GOP's only answer is to reduce benefits. Democrats, on the other hand, have pursued ideas to reduce costs without compromising care, ideas such as letting Medicare negotiate on prescription drug prices, creating a Medicare-based public option, or strengthening the ability Medicare's Independent Payment Advisory Board to reduce expenditures on services that don't improve the quality of care.
If Republicans were serious about reducing costs, they'd work with Democrats on these sorts of ideas. The fact that they won't is yet another reminder that when it comes mto fiscal policy, the GOP just isn't serious.