Cantor giving up on Medicare reform? Not so much.

Feathers began to fly on the hill this week when the Washington Post came out with a story indicating that Eric Cantor was about ready to throw in the towel on entitlement reform. The purported reason was the need to find some sort of compromise with Democrats on getting the debt ceiling raised and moving forward with the next budget.

Senior Republicans conceded Wednesday that a deal is unlikely on a contentious plan to overhaul Medicare and offered to open budget talks with the White House by focusing on areas where both parties can agree, such as cutting farm subsidies.

On the eve of debt-reduction talks led by Vice President Biden, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said Republicans remain convinced that reining in federal retirement programs is the key to stabilizing the nation’s finances over the long term. But he said Republicans recognize they may need to look elsewhere to achieve consensus after President Obama “excoriated us” for a proposal to privatize Medicare.

Disappointing news indeed. But was it actually news? The reports of Cantor’s remarks apparently came as a surprise to… Eric Cantor.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is denying a published account claiming Republicans are preparing to ditch Rep. Paul Ryan’s ambitious plan to revamp Medicare in pursuit of a debt ceiling compromise with Democrats — but both sides have begun seeking common ground on oil subsidies, sources say.

The Washington Post reported late Wednesday that Cantor, highly influential with the party’s tea party wing, planned to abandon Rep. Paul Ryan’s controversial Medicare plan, but a spokesman for Cantor said his boss was quoted out of context — and the GOP is keeping a hard line.

“Eric made very clear that our position is the Ryan budget which — as you know — assumes a debt limit increase and includes Medicare, Medicaid and $715 billion in mandatory savings,” Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring told POLITICO. “Whether the Democrats will agree to the proposals we’ve outlined is yet to be seen, but that is our starting point so we don’t continue to kick the can down the road and make real cuts and real reforms this year.”

This may have been a case of wishful thinking on the part of the wapo. In any event, some sort of grand compromise is going to have to be reached if they expect to make any progress, but the Republican base is going to simply explode if the first move the GOP makes is to take entitlement reform off the table. Not a situation that Cantor or any of the leadership wants, I’m sure.

The more disturbing part of the corrected story is the line they slipped in above, stating that the two parties “have begun seeking common ground on oil subsidies.” We’re going to need some serious clarification on that one, and sooner rather than later. As we pointed out earlier this week, there are many targets painted on the energy industry in terms of cost cutting, and lots of the so called “subsidies” are anything but. Real subsidies, of course, should be on the table, and it will be a good job by Congress if they can get both parties engaged in that discussion seriously.