MCCAIN SLIPS A LITTLE FURTHER FROM SERIOUSNESS…. Perhaps during the next “exclusive!” interview with John McCain, a reporter can ask the senator to defend this shameless nonsense.

In a direct challenge to Democratic leadership, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced an amendment on Thursday night that would prohibit Congress from using reconciliation to make changes to Medicare.

Framed as an effort to protect the sanctity of entitlement programs, McCain’s measure would deprive Democrats of a stream of revenue for their health care bill. The party has targeted hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts and savings to the Medicare program that it would turn around and use to pay for other reforms.

Specifically, McCain, engaged in the cheapest and most embarrassing of pandering, is arguing that “entitlements should not be part of a reconciliation process,” because they’re “too important.”

How absurd is this? Let’s the count the ways.

First, in recent years, McCain has voted for nine separate piece of legislation through the reconciliation process — four of them included cuts to Medicare. He is, in other words, pushing a new measure to prevent a step he’s already taken several times.

Second, it’s hard to take seriously the notion that McCain is worried about cuts to Medicare just two years after he ran for president on a platform that included steep cuts to Medicare.

And third, McCain claims to believe that “entitlement reform” must be a top priority for policymakers, but he’s now pushing a foolish amendment that would make “entitlement reform” almost impossible.

As Ezra explained, “The issue here isn’t mere hypocrisy. It’s dangerous shortsightedness…. [T]o render Medicare untouchable to the reconciliation process will hamstring future congresses that need to make tough decisions to avert the consequences of the program’s substantial deficit. In his zeal to attack the health-care reform bill, McCain is making it harder to address our entitlement spending. It’s wildly irresponsible.”

What an embarrassment.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.