House Republicans admit they need to do better job selling Medicare plan after election loss
May 25th, 2011
07:50 PM ET
12 years ago

House Republicans admit they need to do better job selling Medicare plan after election loss

Washington (CNN) - Despite Democratic claims their upset victory in a special election in western New York was proof of a voter backlash against the GOP plan to overhaul Medicare, House Republicans are sticking by their proposal but admitting they need to do a better job explaining it to voters.

The main target of the Democratic attacks, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who authored the GOP Medicare plan, conceded his proposal does give Democrats a political tool to hold up next fall.

"If you're willing to lie and demagogue Medicare and scare seniors, then yeah, they have a political weapon," Ryan told CNN.

But Ryan also said Republicans need to continue to explain how their proposal will impact Medicare. "Americans want the truth. They want facts. And so we have a year and half to get the truth out. Our budget's so clear. It doesn't change benefits for people over the age of 55 and it saves Medicare for the next generation."

Florida Republican freshman Allen West told reporters Wednesday he will continue to push for the plan in town hall meetings in his district, but said his party needs to respond more forcefully to Democratic criticisms.

"The other side has done a good job of demagoguing something when we should probably do a little bit better job of marketing the message and getting it out there" West said.

Few expected the race to replace former Republican Rep Chris Lee to be competitive. Lee resigned in February after a gossip website posted a shirtless photo of him and e-mails he sent to a woman seeking a date on a website.

But Democrats' strategy in the race was to tie the GOP candidate Jane Corwin to Ryan's proposal: To convert Medicare from a program that pays for seniors' health care costs to one that gives subsidies to those entering the program to buy coverage through private plans.

The Democratic candidate, Kathy Hochul, repeatedly emphasized she "would not touch Medicare benefits" and argued her opponent supported the Ryan's plan, which she said would decimate the program.

All but four House Republicans voted for the Ryan budget in April that included Medicare reforms, and some of those members got an earful from constituents about the changes when they held meetings over the spring recess.

Members have been armed with charts and talking points to show voters the need for taking on the controversial issue.

However, after Tuesday's special election GOP leadership aides admit they need to step up the contrast between their plan and the lack of specifics offered by Democrats. They maintain voters will support their approach to take on Medicare's spiraling costs instead of the Democrats' alternative, which they argue ignores the problem and will bankrupt the program.

"None of the members regret that vote because they want to do something now, but a number of members think there can be a better sales job," one senior GOP leadership aide told CNN.

Rep Michael Grimm, a freshman who represents another New York district that is a top-tier Democratic target, stood by his vote for the Ryan budget.

"I came here to be a leader. I didn't come here to just take popular votes. I came here to move the country forward and to deal with the real problems that our country faces," Grimm told reporters Wednesday.

But he said Republicans have to work hard and take every opportunity they can to explain why they want to reform Medicare now. Grimm said the message for members going home should be, "Here are the facts. I'm not saying it's going broke. The trustees are saying it's going broke. We have to do something."

Grimm said it may take time, but voters will understand the program is directly tied to addressing the massive budget deficit. "They will see past the rhetoric of literally throwing grandma off the cliff. I mean it's cute, it makes headlines, but it doesn't address the problem. Why don't we talk about the debt that's throwing us all off the cliff?"

Michigan Republican Bill Huizenga said his fellow GOP freshmen are undeterred by the results of the special election in New York.

But when asked about the GOP presidential candidates' reluctance to embrace Ryan's proposal and the fact that some GOP senators were voting with Democrats to ensure it didn't advance on Capitol Hill, he repeated the Republican refrain.

"If you don't like the option, please, regardless of party affiliation, or which House you're serving in, come up with a solution. We're run out of road to kick the can down," Huizenga said.

Filed under: House Republicans • Medicare • Paul Ryan
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Republican Robber Baron

    The Republicans lost their own Conservative Stronghold rigged district not because of poor selling but because they lied.
    No matter how many times the GOP tries to spin the end of the day they are still trying to destroy Medicare. You can call it voucher, coupon , credit or "Privatize" but essentially that has always been the Republican ideology. The GOP never even wanted to adopt Medicare or Social Security in the first place.

    May 25, 2011 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  2. Thankfully Independent

    What Republicans really need is a better, viable Medicare Plan, not the first thing that Ryan belched out one night after too many brats and beer. Hey, just maybe they should consult with their constituents rather than just regurgiate whatever thier donors want.

    May 25, 2011 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  3. CBR

    This proposal by Representative Ryan should be the basis for a new budget and reworked in a bipartisan manner and not the final budget. If the Reps worked together as they should they would accept the good and make changes to the portions that have caused concern. Instead they are playing partisan politics and nothing is getting done.

    The coverage of the Medicare portion has been overblown and is causing concern. This portion concerning medical care for the elderly is a little misguided. There are not enough safeguards to make sure that the elderly can get the medical care they need. All too often the elderly find themselves in a 'catch 22." All one needs to do is visit some nursing homes and homes for the elderly. There is so much to be done to insure that even those without a support network are treated with dignity and receive the full care they deserve. Just what medicare will and will not cover is a little off the mark. Just think what individual medical insurance companies could do.

    The American citizens, no matter what age, should know they are covered by health insurance that follows them even if they are laid off or move to another company. Most often there is a change of company and coverage.

    How many times do we hear of an insurance company that will not cover certain medical treatments or certain surgeries, etc.?

    We need Congress to unite in the effort to produce a budget for everyone.

    May 25, 2011 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  4. GOP = Greed Over People

    I think the GOP has sold their "pathway to prosperity" very well,.

    We all know they want to "reform" Medicare by killing grandma and grandpa by denying them medical coverage..

    If the folks under 55 cannot afford private medical insurance NOW, where does the GOP think a 78 year old with no savings is going to get the difference between the "voucher" amount and the real premium price for the insurance 30 years from now? Maybe the GOP can see that a feeding tube can also be connected, that is mobile so it can be moved under the bridge as more old folks take to the streets.

    All you under 55 better start playing the Lottery, and my financial advice is free, take the weekly amount for life as your payout option!

    May 25, 2011 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Ka-Chung! The Republican messaging machine has been cranked up again. They are looking for an opening, any lifeline to change the national conversation away from ending Medicare. The spin to declare the Ryan Plan a starting point is just a gambit to get a response that they can ride hard to change the subject. But, Democrats need a modest response that is reasonable to the American people. I say legislation to enforce fraud with increased penalties.

    May 25, 2011 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  6. Former Republican, now an Independent

    House republicans have done a poor job of explaining this bill by leaving out many of the damaging details to seniors, in the hope they will not check out their missing information. All the democrats have done is tell what is in the bill. The Ryan plan is all about the continued shift of burden to the middle class and American workers, while the wealthy who have bought and paid for him get a pass.

    May 25, 2011 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  7. thomas

    Republicans admit they need to do better job ?

    Didn't they run on the Jobs, Jobs , Jobs platform .

    The GOP can always go back to there war on terror , or maybe cutting Tax's for big oil !

    May 25, 2011 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  8. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared class war on America!

    LOL! The GOBPbaggers think the solution to their problems is to put more polish on their teaturds instead of acknowledging their slavish loyalty to their failed cult of deregulation and tax cuts for the filthy rich. This is not a party based on the reality; the Greedy Old Pigs are adherents to faith-based nonsense that has been disproved repeatedly. But hey, all you birthbaggers double down on your lunacy and watch your party evaporate into irrelevance.

    May 25, 2011 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  9. Clwyd

    You can't sell something that smells to high heaven already and is a get rich plan of vouchers for insurance companies!

    May 25, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  10. insurance guy

    This reminds me of the time a salesman came to my house to sell me something i didnt want. I kept saying i dont want it and he kept trying to sell it to me. Finally i had to throw him out of my house. We need to do the same with these repubs that are trying to sell us something we dont want.

    May 25, 2011 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  11. Four and The Door

    There is plenty of time before November 2012 for the public to realize that Medicare is too important to ignore and so are it's financial problems. Paul Ryan did the honest work to present a well constructed plan to save Medicare before it is too late. He did not come up with the idea that Medicare is in trouble...that fact is well established. But he did come up with the idea that we can save it. If Democrats would spend half as much time trying to manage the government as they do trying to raise taxes, they might have come up with an alternative plan. But they have not.

    May 25, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  12. lou

    Dear Republicans
    You haven't done or accomplish anything since W.
    Please don't fix anything that is not broken.
    You have broken enough for the last 10 years plus. WE HAVE TO BAILED YOU OUT REMEMBER?
    Stop making a fool of your selves. Its getting very very very ANNOYING.
    Most of the people do not trust you anymore.

    May 25, 2011 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    Better job of selling it? How about keeping your paws off of it?

    Or better yet, why not just come clean and admit you don't give a rat's behind about any American except the wealthy and the corporations (who you consider people when it comes to speech but commercial entities when it comes to breaking the law)?

    May 25, 2011 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  14. JWthiers

    So how is Ryan's plan for Medicare different than what Republicans call ObamaCare? Forcing Seniors into private plans that are in part paid for b y the government?

    May 25, 2011 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  15. dashbannon

    What part of "no" don't the Republicans understand. Hands off Medicare. No touchy! Start ending the wars in the Middle East, work on creating jobs that pay living wages, and cut the military before even thinking about Medicare.

    May 25, 2011 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  16. Poser

    The GOP's problem isn't that they haven't explained it. People understand the plan is to force seniors to go out and buy private insurance instead of Medicare. It's clear and people don't like it.

    The GOP is going to try and pretend there are only two choices. 1. let Medicare go broke or 2. take their plan. In reality, there are other choices. We could raise taxes a percentage point. We could means test the benefits. We could allow people to buy prescription drugs from Canada and Mexico (that whole buying across state lines thing touted in the health care reform debate). We could lower the age that people are eligible for Medicare so younger and healthier people pay into the system earlier to balance the costs for the older people. We could do combinations of the above. There are probably many other ideas to bring to the table too.

    May 25, 2011 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  17. LOLO

    The true and real Americans are realizing that the republicans and tea partiers are insane. They are not ready for the future of America. They realize that everything they are saying are lies to discredit perhaps one of the greaetst president's America has had in a long time. Look at how this so called conservative christian party is behaving. People wake up and think. Really consider yourself first and the politics second. Vote with your mind and heart. America deserves better.

    May 25, 2011 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  18. floridianhatescott

    Too late GOP! We, in the middle class, have had MONTHS now to watch the House and our Republican governors fight for big oil, insurance and other coprorate interests. Anything you do or say to me now...I assume you are doing to save your job – and you'll go back to your "real" intent AFTER the electio is over (Like Gov. Walker in Wisc.)

    May 25, 2011 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  19. Jeff

    Boy, I hope they keep trying to sell it, The American people are not going to forget how they all voted, no matter what they do. This is one of the sadest bunch of corporate sell outs ever assembled. They should all be ashamed of themselves and to me are not Americans at all, they are doing nothing to help with the economy or jobs, they have no clue. 5 months in power and not one jobs bill. Where are the jobs?

    May 25, 2011 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  20. logic in LA

    What they need to do is stop "selling" things and offer a reasonable plan. Medicare was not developed as a luxury and should not be looked at as one. Americans lives depend on it. Why bother having a military to save our citizens if we are only going to let them die from lack of healthcare?

    May 25, 2011 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  21. Marie MD

    So, excuuuuse me, the party of hell no except for the rich realizes that the "next president" and his medicare debacle didn't work for them. Didn't they just have a vote today and the rethugs voted for it? Was it something not having to do with medicare/SS? Doubt it.
    Sure grimm, lead by example but whose? Death panels is not what anyone is looking for from your party as we get older. You can't continue to sell you bs to the country. It doesn't work anymore. NY is a perfect example of we are not taking it anymore from you rethugs!

    May 25, 2011 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  22. Kara

    I don't know HOW they intend to 'market' a plan that cuts taxes for the wealthy and corporations by 10%, and ends medicare.
    The GOP/Ryan plan will increase health care costs by an averages of $6400 YEARLY for each person currently under 55. And with the repeal of the protections Obamacare gives against health insurance industries, older people with pre-existing conditions may not even be able to GET health insurance, even at that price.
    The same party that just voted against cutting 20 BILLION in oil industry tax subsidies from the deficit, is actually trying to sell this as a good way to save money?
    How stupid do they think voters are?

    May 25, 2011 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |