By Sam Baker - 10/18/11 07:19 PM EDT
The Tea Party might not be so eager to cut entitlements, after all.
The conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks released early results Tuesday from the "Tea Party Debt Commission" — a website that asks visitors to choose among various proposals for cutting the federal deficit. Voters were hesitant to cut Medicare, even in ways that congressional Republicans strongly support.
Only three healthcare cuts cracked the 10 most popular proposals among self-identified Tea Party supporters. Unsurprisingly, repealing the healthcare reform law was the top vote-getter, even though the Congressional Budget Office says repealing the law would add billions of dollars to the deficit.
Medicaid block grants also made the top 10. Some congressional Republicans support block-granting Medicaid, but it's the most politically difficult proposal to rein in the program's costs. More realistic proposals to cut Medicare fared noticeably worse in the Tea Party survey.
While 73 percent of respondents favored Medicaid block grants, 45 percent supported cutting Medicare payments to hospitals. Lawmakers from both parties are open to cutting Medicare payments to providers, including hospitals.
Even fewer — 43 percent — backed raising the Medicare eligibility age. Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee urged the supercommittee to examine the eligibility age, and President Obama agreed to the change during earlier negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).