On Medicare reform, the GOP plans 'an adult conversation'

Tuesday's elections might have been largely a referendum on the size of government and deficit spending. Still, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said victorious House Republicans have no specific plans to tackle entitlement spending — the most significant driver behind the nation's budget woes.

"We start with all of your discretionary spending," Blackburn told MSNBC's Chris Matthews Tuesday night, "[and] then you have an adult conversation about how to address Medicare and Social Security and the entitlements."

The terminology is no accident. Last month, as Republicans were unveiling their "Pledge to America," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) also declined to specify how the GOP intends to rein in entitlement spending. 

"I don't have all the solutions," Boehner said. "It's about having that adult conversation in an honest, open way that'll get us the answers to lay out the plan that will solve this problem once and for all." 

Instead of taking on the popular entitlements, Blackburn said Tuesday, Republicans will initially tackle deficit spending with "across-the-board" cuts to discretionary programs — except for those related to the military.

"You start with discretionary spending and you do across-the-board cuts," Blackburn said, responding to how Republicans would pay for their plan to extend all the Bush-era tax cuts. 

Asked by Matthews if discretionary spending includes defense costs, Blackburn said, "No, you do not cut defense."

It's a sentiment — popular among GOP veterans — that could cause a rift with some incoming members of the party.

Newly elected Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for instance, said this week that balancing the budget will require conservatives to accept some defense cuts and liberals to accept decreases in domestic programs.  

"There's waste everywhere," Paul told CNN's "American Morning." 

"I do believe national defense is the most important thing the federal government does, but I do think there is waste in the military budget."