A funny thing happened on the way to a government shutdown. Democrats got on message about the House Republicans’ other, bigger budget, which creates a policy blueprint for the next decade.
That message? The GOP plan to end Medicare and hack away at Medicaid is a non-starter. This came from top Democrats across the political spectrum.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, “The Republican budget is unfair because it ends the Medicare guarantee for seniors while giving away tens of billions of dollars in tax subsidies to Big Oil.”
Her top lieutenant, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) didn’t hold back either. “[T]he Republican budget shifts costs to seniors by ending Medicare as we know it and dismantling Medicaid.”
Other top Democrats in the House echoed this view, as did their counterparts in the upper chamber.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said, “It would end Medicare as we know it and funnel Medicare dollars directly into private insurance companies’ pockets.” Indeed, Baucus went father than most.
Under the House plan, seniors’ coverage would be cut drastically, benefits would no longer be guaranteed and seniors’ costs would skyrocket. We can’t allow the House to balance the budget on the backs of seniors and we won’t - not on my watch.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), counterpart to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), called the GOP budget “partisan and ideological,” pointing out that Ryan’s proposal would “replace Medicare with a voucher program and to block grant Medicaid.” Conrad and Ryan will have to figure out a way to square their visions for the coming years, or else we’ll be headed for yet another shutdown fight in the fall.
All of these statements benefit as much from being accurate as being unified. There are many, many others, too, and the pattern is clear: Democrats weren’t wrongfooted by the GOP budget and tricked into endorsing the basic concept. Rather, they dismissed the concept of a radical transformation and weakening of the program out of hand.
The weakest reaction came from the White House, which shot the plan down, but didn’t explain why in the same clear and blunt terms.
This is worlds different than the current spending fight, where Dems adopted the GOP argument without hesitation, and as a result are stuck accepting cuts to social programs they don’t agree with. The next several months will be interesting.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.