House Republicans send mixed message on Medicare
May 5th, 2011
06:30 PM ET
11 years ago

House Republicans send mixed message on Medicare

Washington (CNN) - Top House Republicans appeared divided Thursday on whether to keep pushing a controversial plan to overhaul Medicare – creating what some GOP aides admit is a confused message on an already politically charged topic.

Leading into the first bipartisan talks on reducing the deficit hosted by Vice President Joe Biden, the Washington Post reported Thursday that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor "…said Republicans recognize they may need to look elsewhere to achieve consensus after President Obama 'excoriated us'" for proposing to transform Medicare.

A senior House GOP source told CNN the story caught other House Republican leaders off guard, since it appeared Cantor was taking the GOP Medicare proposal off the table in negotiations before even stepping into the room.

"It makes it look like we're not going to hold the line, and makes it look like we're going to cave," said the GOP source.

After returning from the Biden- led budget meeting Thursday, Cantor sought to clarify.

"I never said we are taking Medicare off the table. The reality is this president has excoriated our budget plan and the Medicare proposal in the plan. I certainly would like to see what their proposals are and that will be the subject of future talks," the number two House Republican told CNN and other reporters in a hallway off the House floor.

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner tried to quash the idea that Republicans would abandon their Medicare proposal.

"Let me make this clear: When it comes to increasing the debt limit and the need to have reductions in spending, nothing is off the table, except raising taxes," said Boehner.

But it wasn't only Cantor who raised the prospect of punting on their Medicare plans at this sensitive time. Even the author of the idea himself, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, is suggesting it may have to be put aside until after the 2012 elections.

"We may not get the grand slam agreement, but we may get a single or a double. We are under no delusion that we're going to get everything we've always wanted in this one bill. But let's get a down payment on that," Ryan said during an economic event Thursday.

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Michigan, whose committee would write Medicare overhaul legislation, also suggested Thursday he may not move forward with the GOP plan.

"I'm not really interested in just laying down more markers. I'd rather have the committee working with the Senate and with the president, focusing on savings and reforms that can be signed into law," said Camp at an appearance at the National Press Club.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer seized on the GOP split, releasing a statement, saying, "The Republicans are slowly realizing their plan to privatize Medicare is a political disaster, but until they renounce their vote for it, they are still going to own it."

While confusion over the Republican message played out on what should be part of these negotiations, Democrats involved in the talks publicly said they continue to keep all items on the table.

Rep Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, one of the two House Democratic members on the working group, told reporters after the meeting, "nobody has dug in on anything."
The House GOP proposal would transform the Medicare system for anyone age 55 and younger, creating a so-called premium support system that would give senior citizens a lump sum amount of money for private health coverage.
Democrats are making the House GOP Medicare proposal their central political target. During a two week congressional recess in April, Democrats bombarded vulnerable House Republicans who voted for the plan with campaign tactics like robo calls and radio ads, accusing them of jeopardizing the health program for seniors.

Republicans all over the country faced frustrated voters in town hall meetings, who in some cases were egged on or joined by left-leaning activists attacking the GOP congressmen on Medicare.

With a Democratic run Senate and Democratic president, senior GOP sources have privately admitted for some time they recognize the Medicare proposal will not get very far.

But recognizing that reality in private and appearing to admit it in public are quite different. GOP sources say it is raising questions among conservatives, who already believe their leadership gave up too much in last month's spending fight, and among other rank and file Republicans who took political risks in voting for the Medicare plan.

"There are some people who say Ryan plan is politically toxic for us. But we are already there," said a senior GOP source.

"Democrats are going to campaign against us on this. What's done is done."

- CNN Congressional Producer Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report

Filed under: House • Medicare • Republicans
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Please, please, do not forget the Repbulican vision for health care reform. They want to allow you to "cross state lines" to purchase health care if you can find it cheaper elsewhere. They also want to allow insurance companies to deny coverage if they so wish. Think about all that implies if they get their way through and through.

    Keep in mind Medicare was created because insurance companies would not cover them in the first place. When they say "cross state lines", that is literally what they mean. If you sit in your house an order something from out of state, the transaction is registered in your state, which is why you pay state taxes to your state and not the one you order from.

    What makes you think the other state will not charge you rates that apply to your state? It will be the same company according to the Republicans. Do you think companies will charge you the lower rate, or raise the lower rate for everyone? What makes you think the other state will even offer you insurance when they can turn you down for most any reason they want? Think about it.

    May 5, 2011 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  2. Patrick from Minnesota

    This is why you don't vote Republican.

    May 5, 2011 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  3. California Conservative

    Democrats already shook down Medicare for half a Trillion ($500 Billion) dollars with the left wing media choosing to ignore the fact.

    May 5, 2011 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  4. GI Joe

    OOPS doesn't sound like it's meant to sound – tax INCREASES are te only thing not allowed. Meaning, give the wealthy more tax cuts, and take away everything from the majority of middle class and working poor. Then tinkle down on us (voodoo economics if I've ever seen them).

    May 5, 2011 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  5. T'sah from Virginia

    Canto better watch his back – we're trying our best to VOTE him OUT the next election. He DOES NOT represent me and my beliefs and many others in this district feel the same way. Hmm, do you think that is why he is changing his tune?????

    May 5, 2011 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  6. michaelam

    Quit lying and blaming President Obama for calling you out and your ridiculous plan to eliminate Medicare. The main reason it is off the table is because NO ONE wants to eliminate Medicare, including Teahadists and other members of your ridiculous base! For further evidence, watch the numerous Town Hall meetings that did not go so well for GOP/Teahadist members of the House. Everyone is running from Ryan's plan because it is not courageous, it is DANGEROUS!

    May 5, 2011 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  7. getu

    if this republicans get control of the three branch of goverment then Medicair Medicaid will be history

    May 5, 2011 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  8. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans were on their 2 week vacation when President Obama captured and kill OBL but they want to kill Americans medicare. In other words, these Repugs are thugs.

    May 5, 2011 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |

    The GOP should keep their Medicare disposal plans in tact. Show the people where you really stand, for big business and against the middle class. Don't cave in, don't change your mind now, stick with with your plan. WE THE PEOPLE Need a democratic congress again!

    May 5, 2011 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  10. Four and The Door

    When it comes to increasing the debt limit and the need to have reductions in spending, nothing is off the table, except raising taxes," said Boehner...
    Speaker Boehner is doing a great job representing the abused American taxpayer in the face of an administration and Senate who seem to be determined to raise taxes. The administration also wants to raise the debt limit with no agreement to control spending. The insanity of what raising taxes would do to both our economy and our future is apparently no concern of Obama or Reid. They are through giving away our country's existing resources. Now they are working to spend everything we can borrow. Someone has to fight against the greed and John Boehner is standing up to be that man.

    May 5, 2011 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  11. Ed FL

    Do not know if is now cowardice or stupidity for even trying to mess with medicare .there has to be a few that are old enough to remember what happened the last time you IDIOTS tried to screw over the ELDERLY. Keep it up and we may not need an election in 2012 ,President OBAMA will stay in office by DEFAULT.

    May 5, 2011 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |

    Do away with the Bush tax cuts for the rich,.. and put an end to the corporate welfare to the oil companies,.. it's not like BIG OIL is hurting,.. they just reported mega billions in profit for the first quarter,.. it's insanity for the taxpayers to subsidize them. Obama is right,.. Washington is broken and corrupt,.. otherwise it should be a no brainer.

    May 5, 2011 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  13. JA in MN

    President Obama has ALREADY put forward a plan to address Medicare. Cost-saving measures and some smaller cuts that the GOP tried to scare seniors about prior to the 2010 elections. The hypocrisy of the GOP is amazing - while they were trying to scare seniors about the balanced changes President Obama wanted to make, they were planning to put forward their "voucher system" that would leave many seniors unable to afford any health care at all!! The Ryan plan is what the GOP is all about - cut taxes for the very wealthy, hand out corporate subsidies, then tell the middle class that "we're broke" and the middle class needs to pay for it. The middle class will be paying for the hand-outs to the wealthy through cuts to education for our children, loss of help to pay for college for our children, less retirement security, and loss of health care in retirement. The GOP caters to the ultra-rich who give TONS of money to their campaigns and form PACs to run ads for them. The massive amounts of money spent on the GOP's behalf does manage to confuse the issues and lead more people to vote Republican. If the middle class were remotely clear on what the GOP is REALLY doing they would never vote for them. OBAMA 2012

    May 5, 2011 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  14. Clwyd

    Oh MY! One of the republican zzzzombies has broken ranks and begun to think for himself! Is that possible?

    May 5, 2011 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  15. MAC

    The only way to keep Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security the same as it is now is to raise the social security and medicaid taxes.

    May 5, 2011 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  16. Positive

    House Republicans voted almost unanimously to destroy Medicare while giving more tax cuts to the wealthy. Now they're just trying to walk it back b/c they couldn't get anyone else to fall for it. But, let them get more power and they'll be right back on it. They won't be happy until the insurance company CEOs have that money in their pockets and wall street has the money from "privatizing" social security. Wake up, people!

    May 5, 2011 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  17. Nothing new here

    Even the author of the idea himself, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, is suggesting it may have to be put aside until after the 2012 elections.
    Yes indeed.
    Can't do anything to upset the constituents – or lose elections.
    Maybe the Republicans need to think long, hard and three times before they mess with Medicare.

    May 5, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  18. USwatcher

    Do something create Amercian's can make a the goods...that American's American business's can goverment gets their tax base...raise the taxable amount(like I experienced for 40 years)limits on paycheck deductions...and quit threatening my PROMISED program(not entitlement program)future payments...DONT PULL THE CARPET OUT FROM UNDER ME JUST BECAUSE I'M 55.

    May 5, 2011 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  19. SR

    "Let me make this clear: When it comes to increasing the debt limit and the need to have reductions in spending, nothing is off the table, except raising taxes," said Boehner."

    So in other words you've got a completly closed mind AND are totally divorced from reality. And you're the Speaker of the House.

    May 5, 2011 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  20. Monzell

    We gotta vote them out I'm 54 played want the med I played for don't steal mine turn urself in reps

    May 5, 2011 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  21. jack

    I do not bellive i once thought of myself us a rep. after nixon lied then regan cut off my school loans then the two bushes you would think i would understand what reps are about. i was injured four yrs ago and live off ssd so reps are going to screw me again maybe i should have stayed in a coma but reps would have cut my hospitals funding.

    May 5, 2011 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |