Ryan challenges the president to stop playing politics with Medicare
June 1st, 2011
06:49 PM ET
11 years ago

Ryan challenges the president to stop playing politics with Medicare

Washington (CNN)–House Republican Budget chairman Paul Ryan directly challenged President Obama at a meeting with all House Republicans Wednesday, urging him to stop playing politics with Medicare and start leading on the issue of entitlement reform, according to Republican sources in the room.

The exchange came at a meeting at the White House with all House Republicans when Ryan told the president that he wasn't leading on the issue of Medicare and that leaders can either solve problems "or exacerbate them."

According to these sources, the Wisconsin Republican–who has been the main target of Democratic criticism because he authored the GOP proposal to dramatically change the current Medicare system–told the President during the White House meeting that he thought the discussions about reform started out right earlier this year. But he said the president's budget speech at George Washington University in April served as a signal to Democrats to paint Republicans as a party that doesn’t care about kids and grandparents. Ryan told the President it appeared he was more focused on the election in 2012 than dealing with entitlement reform this year.

Ryan also took issue with Democrats describing his proposal as turning Medicare into a "voucher" program and told the president Republicans were talking about a "premium support system." He said that his proposal would mean seniors would deal directly with Medicare, not with private insurance companies. Ryan argued his plan was an attempt to address entitlement reform and Democrats were demagoguing the issue.

After Ryan spoke his fellow Republicans gave him a standing ovation.

President Obama responded, according to one GOP source in the room, saying he's read Ryan's proposal and does not question that he's sincere about reforming entitlement programs. The president told Republicans he has made hard decisions and that he believes both sides want to solve the problem. He indicated that it's hard for both parties to find a solution because the public does not want any changes to Medicare. But the president said both parties need to come together on a bipartisan compromise.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney described the meeting as a “frank discussion,” but also told reporters, “I would not say it was confrontational.”

“I think it was productive, and while nobody hid from the fact that there are differences, that it was a useful conversation,” Carney said

After the meeting Ryan was asked by CNN about the exchange, but seemed to downplay it, telling reporters, "I simply explained what our plan is, how it works.”

Ryan said of his proposal, “It's been misdescribed by the President and many others, and so we simply described to him precisely what it is we've been proposing, so that he hears from us how our proposal works so that in the future he won't mischaracterize it."

California Republican David Dreier, who attended the White House meeting, told reporters the discussion between Ryan and the president “was very friendly and respectful," but he added there were comments from Ryan and other GOP members in the meeting and, "there was strength shown on both sides."

Dreier said President Obama told House Republicans after Ryan spoke that "entitlements are on the table," which he took as a positive sign. Dreier noted that Obama told those in the room that he had been briefed on the House GOP plan "with a slightly different take" than the one Ryan outlined.

CNN White House Correspondent Brianna Keilar contributed to this report.

Filed under: Medicare • Paul Ryan • President Obama
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Lisa

    Exactly who is playing "politics" with Medi-Care? Seems the GOP is just as guilty as they haven't exactly forced the issues of taking those funds and SS funds out of the general fund. Perhaps if that were done, neither program would in the critical shape they apparently currently are.

    June 1, 2011 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  2. James Ruston

    And Ryan is somehow free of politics in what he is doing? Sounds to me like he is reacting to the criticism of his ideas by offering up a scapegoat.

    June 1, 2011 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  3. michaelam

    Don't cave, President Obama. The American people are behind you and do NOT anything to do with Ryan's plan to end Medicare. Ryan may claim that his plan is a "premium support system" but WE, the People, know it's a voucher plan that will not cover our needs. Our seniors and future seniors will be broke.

    The best way to reform Medicare and Social Security is to raise the income cap and tax ALL forms of income. This plan will guarantee both "entitlement's" solvency!

    Vote every and all GOP/Teahadists out of office in 2012. They care NOTHING about American citizens except for the privileged 2%!

    June 1, 2011 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  4. Four and The Door

    Bravo, Representative Ryan! This is exactly the problem. Democrats took Ryan's honest proposal to fix the huge problem with entitlements and made it into a pathetic political game. I guess playing politics is easier than doing their job and coming up with a viable alternative if they didn't like this one. But they have provided no alternative.

    I guess Obama believes he was elected to play political games instead of actually managing the government.

    June 1, 2011 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  5. Tony

    What gall!

    This idiot comes up with a draconian plan to gut Medicare and encourage seniors to an early grave (for lack of quality care); and then accuses the President of playing politics? We would have enough money to pay for Medicare if we ended our involvment in two Republican wars and increased taxes to cover our expenses. If Ryan had his way he would empty the nursing homes and cancel health insurance for seniors; all while giving additional tax cuts to the wealthy. After all, Ayn Rand's philosophy was if you are too old to work, can no longer contribute and haven't saved enough money-you're on your own.

    Can anyone in his district in Wisconsin see what a fool this man is?

    I pray to God and all the saints Ryan is defeated in 2012!

    June 1, 2011 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  6. XWngLady

    The President is NOT playing politics with Medicare, he's merely trying to save it from sharks like you Mr. Ryan. But even if he were, I would tell him to stop playing politics with Medicare, when you stop playing Russian Roulette with it, which is exactly what privatizing Medicare would be.

    June 1, 2011 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  7. Mike

    All the evidence points to Ryan and his cohorts as the ones playing politics with every issue. It's an attempt to take us back to something like the dark ages. The worst thing is that so many are falling for it. We really do have an uninformed American public.

    June 1, 2011 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  8. phoenix86

    Sorry Congressman, if Obama stops playing politics with Medicare then he would have to offer a solution to save it and voters would then realize that Obama doesn't have a plan at all. Now we wouldn't want that to happen, would we.

    June 1, 2011 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  9. dgg61

    The Ryan plan cuts taxes again to the highest tax brackets from 35% down to 25%. Also if Health care cost were seriously addressed that would help decrease medicare burden.

    June 1, 2011 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  10. duckbutter

    obama is not going to do anything.... he is afraid of his shadow... he wont do anything watch and see...

    June 1, 2011 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  11. ronalde

    If the president let the republicans make a fool out of him again like they did on health care i'll never vote or campain for him again.Take medicare off of the table and put and keep the bush tax on.the democrats let the republicans rule health care now they are willing to let them push seniors off of the clill so the rich can get more tax cuts.To the democrats do not cave in the republicans didn, 't need cuts to raise ths ceiling for bush and they don't need them now don't raise the ceiling and t let our expire.

    June 1, 2011 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  12. Tired of the nonsense

    It's not the President playing politics with Medicare. It's the GOP. Go talk to them and tell them to not touch it!

    June 1, 2011 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  13. GI Joe

    Did he really say that with a straight face? The very men that are holding the entire country hostage? Maybe even the world economy is being held hostage by that group of republican thugs that you republicans elected. I hope you ALL lose 100% of your 401Ks. It would serve you right. And I hope the thugs get voted out next year.

    June 1, 2011 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  14. dgg61

    De-regulation is to blame for many of our countries woes, healthcare monopolies, banking monopolies, too big to fail.

    June 1, 2011 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  15. Jeetu

    Ryan does not present his arguments truthfully and does not share his real reasons for changing medicare to private insurance. Premium support system as he calls is a way to get the government out of medicare. Once accomplished, it is easy to change the level of premium support and ask the seniors to pay more and more of medicare expenses, which they won't be able to do. This will increase healthcare issues more towards worse and hence is not acceptable.

    So, my call to Mr. Ryan and to republicans: start telling the truth and do not hide behind your gimmicks to trick the people. Clearly, people do not like Ryan's plan and therefore, I suggest that republicans should move on to raise some taxes, cut some spending and pass the budget. Leave medicare alone the way it is. DO NOT GET THE SENIORS TO KILL THEMSELVES BECAUSE THEY CANNOT GET MEDICARE HELP.

    June 1, 2011 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  16. roscoe

    I think Ryan is sincere about wanting to reform Medicare. However, being sincere doesn't mean he's on the right track. A plan that turns Medicare over to private insurers and offers "premium support" is a voucher plan.

    June 1, 2011 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  17. marty

    We are told that 'all entitlements' are on the table by a myriad of Congressmen, especially the Republicans That should include the entitlements of those in Congress and the retired members of Congress. That's what the word ...all....means.

    June 1, 2011 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  18. T'sah from Virginia

    The Republicans need to STOP playing politics and end the TAX CUTS for the rich!!

    The Republicans also played politics in the 2010 campaign and lied to their constituents just to get elected. NOW, they are boxed in a corner and can't get out – So, ATTACK is the only thing they know how to do!!

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012!!!

    June 1, 2011 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  19. Clwyd

    Ryan, You are an embarrassment to us in Wisconsin. Selling out to the rich for the tax cut from 35% to 25% when they already average only 17%. We told you at your town meetings by yelling, but you obviously didn't hear us and the republican zombies have made you one of them! You are a disgrace!

    June 1, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  20. dgg61

    Healthcare cost for myself are more than half of what I pay on my mortgage each month. I've been paying into heath care for over 30 years, no surgeries, only minor claims, meaning I've paid into the system far more than I have ever made claims against.

    June 1, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  21. David

    The republicans are the ones playing politics with medicare, they are the ones tying it the the debt ceiling. The repubs are acting like babies, and by the way your plan is a voucher program that will bankrupt the elderly, put all the liptstick you want on it, your plan is still a pig.

    June 1, 2011 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  22. Brian Dodge

    "...so we simply described to him precisely what it is we've been proposing, so that he hears from us how our proposal works so that in the future he won't mischaracterize it."

    Aren't there "death panels" in it? Isn't it a "Ponzi scheme"? Isn't it a "real medicare killer"? Isn't it just "smoke and mirrors"?

    June 1, 2011 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  23. A disgusted former Republican

    Nothing new here. The republicans are trying to put the best face on their efforts to dismantle Medicare. They will lose on this issue as seniors will hand them their heads on a platter if they mess with Medicare.

    June 1, 2011 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  24. Terje

    Excuse me, but Ryan and the Republicans are in absolutely no position to lecture the President or the Democrats on the subject of "playing politics with Medicare."

    In the 2010 election, Republicans ran countless misleading ads against Democrats, accusing them of planning to cut Medicare based on the very responsible proposal to slow the rate of growth in Medicare expenses over the coming years. Ironically, the Republicans have had no shame about including these very same measures in their own budget proposals, but I haven't heard them apologizing to the country for demagoging the Medicare issue in the 2010 election.

    The simple fact is that Paul Ryan and the Republicans want to replace the existing Medicare program and instead offer future beneficiaries nothing more than a coupon to apply to the purchase of unaffordable private health insurance. And they propose to use the savings from this (and the huge cutbacks to programs for the poor and middle class) to pay for even greater tax cuts for the wealthiest part of the population.

    There are plenty of ways to have a difficult and responsible discussion about the future of Medicare and the necessity for cost containment. But if you are going to proposal a radical extremist complete restructuring of a program that Americans have come to count on in their senior years, don't be surprised when both the American population as a whole, and Democratic politicians in particular, call you out on your effort to impose your mean-spirited Ayn Rand social experiment on the country.

    June 1, 2011 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  25. Papasan

    Every Republican member of Congress signed on the dotted line, drank the kool-aid and voted for the Ryan budget plan. May everyone of them have a restless, tossing and turning, sleep-deprived night they so richly deserve.

    June 1, 2011 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
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