Budget cut-hungry GOP walks fine line, eyeing 2016 elections

House and Senate Republican lawmakers began working on a budget this week that could propose slashing Medicare and Medicaid in an effort to work toward a balanced budget without fiddling with tax rates, according to published reports.

Republican lawmakers are eager to make significant cuts to so-called entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid as a means to honor a non-binding “pledge” to balance the federal budget in 10 years without raising taxes, according to The New York Times.

In lieu of starting an epic budget battle they'd likely lose with a veto-threatening president, House Republicans may opt to go after milder budget cuts in the Postal Service, food stamp and federal student loan programs, according to the Times. Senate Republicans already rejected a House GOP plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system. Those with less of an appetite to heavily cut Medicaid and other entitlement programs could focus instead on trying to replace Obamacare.

One major proposal under consideration would replace Obamacare subsidies with so-called “refundable tax credits.” Other Republican proposals would preserve the current taxpayer subsidies through late 2017 but repeal the current law's individual and employer mandates, Reuters reported. Other proposals would allow consumers to buy insurance across state lines.