The latest “Mediscare” battle is rife with irony: Republicans are attacking a Medicare policy enacted by Democrats, even though they voted overwhelmingly to continue the policy last year and are supporting it again this year.
In a new TV ad, the House GOP’s electoral arm NRCC targets Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH) for backing President Obama health care reform law, declaring that it will “decimate Medicare” and “shred the social safety net and leave seniors vulnerable at risk.” The NRCC is also launching robocalls in 13 Democratic-held districts slamming the members over the Medicare cuts in the reform law.
The Affordable Care Act reduces Medicare spending by some $500 billion over 10 years, mostly with reimbursement cuts to private insurers and health providers — the reductions do not touch benefits. The aim was to reduce over-payments and strengthen the life of the safety-net program.
As it turns out, nearly every Republican in the House and Senate voted last year to sustain those cuts in the Paul Ryan budget. And they’re set to do so again in the near future as his updated Path To Prosperity blueprint comes up for a vote. That’s the context of these ads — Republicans know Democrats are about to hit them hard for again pushing a plan that partially privatizes Medicare and ends the coverage guarantee, so they’re making a pre-emptive strike.
NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsay, asked about this contradiction, did not dispute that Republicans are now supporting the same Medicare cuts they’re bashing Dems for. He simply made the observation that Dems are using them to fund the Affordable Care Act, which enjoyed the two-year anniversary of its enactment Friday.
“Democrats cut $500 billion from Medicare in order to pay for ObamaCare,” Lindsay told TPM. “The Path to Prosperity puts that back towards ensuring that Medicare remains sustainable instead of funding the Democrats’ massive government healthcare takeover.”
Republicans used this line of attack ahead of the 2010 elections and reaped the political rewards. But their own budget, for the second year in a row, illustrates that the GOP has no qualms with the Medicare policy they’re excoriating Dems for enacting.
“The ‘do as I say, not as I do’ NRCC is at it again lying yet again,” the House Dems’ electoral arm DCCC said in a statement, “about Democrats’ record to strengthen and improve Medicare in an attempt to distract from Republicans’ record of trying to end the Medicare guarantee to give tax breaks to billionaires and Big Oil.”
The irony goes even deeper: While the GOP is attacking Dems for cutting Medicare to fund the Affordable Care Act, their own Ryan blueprint converts Medicare into a market exchange for seniors that’s very similar to what the Affordable Care Act does for non-seniors. But the GOP plan has a public option, which Republicans successfully fought to keep out of the ACA.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.