Other voices: GOP fumbling on Medicare

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 12, 2011

In the 2010 elections, many of the 87 freshmen Republicans ran savage health-care attack ads, accusing Democratic opponents of gutting Medicare to pay for President Barack Obamaís health-care reform and putting access to medical care in the hands of government bureaucrats, the so-called death panels.
Now, as Politico headlined, ěFreshmen get taste of own medicine with new attacks.î Three weeks ago, House Republicans voted for a deficit-cutting 2012 budget plan that called for turning Medicare into a voucher system. Then they went home for a two-week recess to face a backlash from constituents.
Their voucher plan was not well received, and it was surprisingly unpopular among seniors who wouldnít be affected by the change. But a new Quinnipiac poll says that 60 percent of voters think Medicare should be left alone. The Democratic campaign committees rushed out attack ads accusing House Republicans of trying to abolish Medicare. The ads must have stung.
This week, Obama received a surprising letter signed by 42 freshmen Republicans. It said, in essence: Call off the dogs. They wrote, ěWe ask that you stand above partisanship, condemn the disingenuous attacks and work with Congress to reform spending on entitlement programs,î one of which is, of course, Medicare.
ěAs a freshman class, we have the opportunity to wipe the slate clean …,î the letter continued. It is time, they wrote, ěto reset the tone in Washington by ending the partisan bickering.î Of course, they can say that now because theyíve won their elections, and those of them backed by the Tea Party movement were sent here precisely to engage in partisan bickering.
The House Republicansí handling of Medicare has been a series of stumbles. Last week, the GOP leadership conceded that the Medicare reform plan was not politically viable and indicated that it would not waste political capital fighting for the plan. This was only a recognition of political reality as long as Democrats control the Senate. But it had the effect of pulling the rug out from under the rank and file that had barely finished voting for it.
At the end of last week, the leadership reaffirmed its support for the Republican budget plan and its own commitment to ěpreserve and strengthen Medicare,î which is not what this budget does.
And what about that call to rise above partisanship, petty politics and endless bickering?
At this weekís end, the National Republican Congressional Campaign began road-testing attack ads accusing Obama and other Democrats of planning to let Medicare go bankrupt and put seniorsí access to medical care in the hands of government bureaucrats.
ó Scripps Howard News Service