MEDICARE PRIVATIZATION LOOKS DEAD…. We learned overnight that House Republicans leaders appear to be backing away from their plan to end Medicare and replace it with a privatized voucher scheme. Realizing it can’t pass, GOP leaders seem ready to drop the plan as budget talks continue.

The reports have generated some pushback this morning, but the Republican plan’s fate now appears to be sealed.

The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said Thursday he has no interest in bringing up House Republicans’ proposal to replace Medicare with subsidies for private insurance if it’s not going to pass the Senate.

“I’m not really interested in laying down more markers,” said Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.). “I’d rather have the committee working with the Senate and with the president to focus on savings and reforms that can be signed into law.”

Camp made his remarks to reporters at a Health Affairs policy breakfast.

For those unfamiliar with congressional procedures, the Ways and Means Committee is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, committee on the Hill. An effort like privatizing Medicare would necessarily go through Ways and Means before advancing, and if the committee chairman doesn’t even want to bother, it suggests the initiative really is dead.

And while that’s certainly good news, it probably won’t come as a relief to vulnerable House Republicans. Remember, they knew ending Medicare would be unpopular, they knew Democrats would never go for it, but they voted for a budget plan that scrapped Medicare anyway. Some of those GOP lawmakers almost certainly didn’t want to go along, but they stuck their necks out and voted for this ridiculous agenda because their leaders asked them to.

A month later, those same leaders are moving away from their own idea, leaving their most vulnerable members with nothing more than attacks ads to look forward to.

Update: Boehner is walking away from his party’s policy, too. That’s not too surprising — he started distancing himself last week.

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Steve Benen

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.