House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) on Sunday threw a measure of support behind a key Republican lawmaker's plan to dramatically cut Social Security and Medicare.
The plan, called "A Roadmap for America's Future," was created by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the new chairman of the budget committee, who promoted it last year as a means to cut the national debt.
"The direction the roadmap goes is something we need to embrace," Cantor said on NBC's "Meet the Press," praising the plan's capacity for deficit reduction.
The roadmap would partially privatize Social Security benefits and turn Medicare into a voucher program, effectively ending two monumental safety net programs for seniors in the United States.
Cantor's remarks earned an immediate rebuke from Democrats.
"House Republican Leader Eric Cantor and House Republicans are now 'full speed ahead' on a devastating plan that would privatize Social Security and eliminate Medicare that American seniors earned," said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "House Republicans are doubling down on plans to gamble Social Security in the stock market and eliminating Medicare."
In the run-up to the November midterm elections, Republican leaders declined to champion the specifics of the plan, treading carefully around the issue of slashing cherished programs.
But Cantor's comments Sunday, and the GOP's appointment of Ryan to chair the budget committee, suggest that Republicans may embrace such a proposal in the 112th Congress, where their control of the House gives them considerable clout to set the terms of the debate.
In another sign that this may be the case, GOP leaders have tapped Ryan to deliver the Republican rebuttal to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address this month.
This article has been updated for clarity.