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Congress: The GOP's 180 on Medicare

The Washington Post looks at how Republicans, who previously haven't been Medicare's biggest defenders in Washington, suddenly are championing the government program and its funding. "After years of trying to cut Medicare spending, Republican lawmakers have emerged as champions of the program, accusing Democrats of trying to steal from the elderly to cover the cost of health reform."

"It's a lonely battle. The hospital associations, AARP and other powerful interest groups that usually howl over Medicare cuts have also switched sides. Last week, they stood silent as the Senate Finance Committee debated a plan to slice more than $400 billion over the next decade from Medicare, the revered federal insurance program for people over 65, and Medicaid, which also serves many seniors."

And don't miss this paragraph, which gets to the issue of whether industry can live up to its cut promises. "Some budget analysts worry that industry groups, though confident now, may find it difficult to live up to their part of the bargain. The Baucus bill would create an independent commission charged with ratcheting payment rates even lower in the years to come. Others say the cuts, even if they stand, are insufficient to fix a program facing the twin burdens of a rapidly growing population of retirees and rampant health-care inflation. Unless health reform delivers on Obama's promise to restrain the overall cost of health spending, Medicare will undoubtedly stay on the chopping block."

The Finance Committee vote on the public option amendment likely comes tomorrow. "Baucus has personally signaled an openness to the public option but steadfastly maintains that it lacks enough support to pass the Senate, making it a pointless and politically volatile exercise to include it in his bill. But it's not going to be fun for Baucus – who's been a punching bag for the political left -- to join Republicans and vote against a Democratic amendment when the time comes."

The AP on Olympia Snowe: "Snowe stands as the woman with the most clout in Washington, poised at the intersection of ambitious efforts to change the nation's system of medical care amid competing political forces. If she votes with the Democrats, Obama could secure the biggest win of his young presidency. If she sticks with her Republican colleagues, it could prove as devastating to the president as the blow dealt to former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s when his health care package failed."

"Congress will tackle a defense-heavy agenda this week with debates on Pentagon spending and policy, missile defense strategy, and the contentious missions in Iraq and Afghanistan," The Hilll writes. "The conference on the 2010 defense policy bill could conclude this week. Staff are slated to work through the weekend and the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are expected to meet on Tuesday to iron out some big differences."