House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) fired back on Friday at Democrats over Medicare, one day after Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that House Democrats would consider “no benefits cuts” to the program in the course of White House-led negotiations on a long-term deficit-reduction plan.
“Democrats like to champion themselves as the defenders of Medicare, but today’s Democratic party is willing to stand idly by as Medicare goes bankrupt,” Cantor said in a statement. “The latest Medicare Trustees report makes clear that the program is much closer to bankruptcy than believed even last year, and that the program is in far more trouble than the Trustees or CBO had projected.”
Cantor defended the House Republican 2012 budget blueprint, which would overhaul Medicare by partially privatizing the health-care program for future seniors.
“The truth is that Medicare taxes and premiums only cover a little more than half of the cost of the program, and most Americans understand that the program needs to be changed to preserve and protect it for future seniors,” Cantor said. “That is why Republicans have offered a plan to guarantee benefits for seniors and those approaching retirement while ensuring that this important safety net exists for Americans under 54 years of age.”
By contrast, he added, Democrats are doing “nothing to save Medicare from collapse” and “have tried to scare seniors by mischaracterizing real solutions to strengthen and save the program and using those efforts as a political weapon.”
Cantor’s remarks came a day after Pelosi told The Post’s Greg Sargent that Democrats would not support any cuts to Medicare in the debt-limit talks; Pelosi was clarifying previous comments to Bloomberg TV in which she said that changes to Medicare were “on the table.”
Cantor’s statement also came one day after Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said that Senate Democrats would wait until after the White House-led talks produced a result to issue their 2012 budget proposal.
Conrad’s announcement triggered criticism from Republicans, who noted on the Senate floor Thursday that it has been 750 days since Senate Democrats had passed a budget.
The exchanges over Medicare in recent days are the latest indication that the issue remains a prime focus of both parties heading into the 2012 election. As Democrats have continually hammered Republicans over the budget plan drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Republicans have countered that Democrats have yet to produce a plan of their own.
Pelosi on Thursday responded to that criticism in part by casting the national health-care overhaul as the Democratic plan for preserving Medicare.
But a report from the Medicare and Social Security Trustees last week showed that the expensive entitlement programs are still en route to insolvency, with Medicare projected to be depleted by 2024 and Social Security by 2036.