To: Congressional Republicans
Fr: Democratic Leader’s Press Office
Da: May 6, 2011
Re: “Confusion?” Not When It Comes to Your Vote to End Medicare As We Know It
“On the table.” “Off the table.” “Absolutely not.” No “Grand Slam.” “Singles.” “Doubles.”
There appears to be a lot of “confusion” coming from your side of the aisle, but there is one thing you can be certain of: your vote to end Medicare as we know it is anything but confusing to the American people.
Have a good weekend.
The House Republican confusion over the party’s Medicare stance Thursday underscores two worries for the GOP — an often insecure, rivalrous leadership and a very bright Budget Committee chairman given to jumping ahead of his troops.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) paid the heaviest price, stepping on his message even before White House talks had begun. But House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also played a part by opining publicly that it’s now unlikely that any debt deal this summer will include the wholesale Medicare changes that had been envisioned in his ambitious budget plan adopted just last month.
All this was news to the rank-and-file Republicans who had voted for the Ryan plan last month and felt political heat at home over the spring recess. And it left Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as the unlikely tough guy on the block, pulling a Cantor on Cantor, so to speak…
Now listen to Boehner’s comment on Thursday after Cantor was quoted as conceding that given President Barack Obama’s opposition, Medicare overhaul wasn’t likely to be part of the debt deal and it was time to look for more common ground:
“Absolutely not,” the speaker said when asked at a morning press conference if perhaps “the time isn’t right” for the Medicare proposal…
Cantor was quick to get back on message. “I have not taken Medicare off the table, but the president has,” the majority leader said after the opening budget talks…
Ryan didn’t back down from his own assessment that there will be no “grand slam” for the GOP coming out of the debt ceiling deal, more like “singles or doubles.”
Speaking of Thursday’s flap, he told POLITICO: “I think it’s much ado about nothing. We need to get as much as we can. It has to be serious. We have to show credit markets that we have this under control.”
The vote for the Ryan budget and Medicare overhaul could yet be hugely costly for many. And to speculate that none of it will be settled until after the 2012 election ignores the fact that these same freshmen will have to run in the interim.
“Ryan is their general, and he has to worry if the troops think the general is leaving the field,” said one Republican leadership aide…
Caught in the middle too are his fellow committee chairmen.
There’s some irony here too since Boehner has been so outspoken this week in defense of continued U.S. aid to Pakistan. The Ryan budget would cut international aid to levels below those in the last years of George W. Bush’s administration — prior to a big expansion of Pakistan assistance.
“It is not a time to back away from Pakistan; it is time for more engagement with them, not less,” Boehner said Thursday. But when his office was asked how this could be done under the budget limits, it could not answer with any specifics…