With Democrats hammering House Republicans on the campaign trail over their proposal to overhaul Medicare, a group of House GOP freshmen is urging the White House to refrain from using the issue as a political tool and hold a “fact-based conversation immediately.”
That appeared an unlikely prospect Wednesday, however, as Democrats’ House campaign arm immediately fired back by noting that half of the Republican freshmen accusing Democrats of using scare tactics on Medicare had in fact campaigned on the issue in the last election cycle.
Led by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), ten House Republican freshmen held a news conference outside the Capitol Wednesday morning at which they denounced Democrats for honing in on Medicare in an onslaught of attacks on their party.
“Look, I’m not going to defend anything done in the past, because I think that something we’re trying to do is not stand up here and say, ‘We were right in doing this, or we were wrong,’” Kinzinger said. “Well, let’s get past the past. Let’s move forward to the future and say, ‘Okay, today is today. We have a real problem.’ Let’s get past the entrenched politics and just move forward together. The president said he wanted to do that. Let’s just do it. Let’s all join hands and do this thing. ... We’re not even having discussions at this point because it immediately turned into attacks.”
Wednesday’s news conference came one day after Kinzinger and 41 other House GOP freshmen wrote a letter to Obama urging him to “stop the political rhetoric.” In the letter, the freshmen also reminded Obama of his previous words at House Republicans’ annual retreat, when the president called for “a serious conversation about Medicare and its long-term liability.”
“This is a moment for us to be able to say, ‘Mr. President, you said these were serious ideas. You said this was a moment that we need to have this discussion. We agree. Now we can all either yell at each other or we can sit down at the table and say, let’s work this out for the sake of stabilizing Medicare long-term,’” freshman Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Wednesday.
“All the statements being put out there about vouchers – the Democrats know full well this is not vouchers. ... It is very different than that. They know very well these are issues that we’re trying to resolve in the Budget Committee and that it’s not some radical and extreme proposal,” he added.
Another freshman, Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), argued that in approving the budget blueprint drafted by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Republicans were acting responsibly and doing just the opposite of Democrats’ claims.
“We’re trying to protect Medicare,” Stutzman said. “We’re not trying to spread it out so thin that it’s not going to be around for the long-term and for our future generations.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, meanwhile, shot back that the House Republican freshmen had benefited from the very same tactics last campaign cycle when they accused Democrats of slashing Medicare by $500 billion by approving the national health-care law.
“House Republican freshmen used false and misleading scare tactics against seniors last year but are now afraid of the truth: their constituents are outraged that they voted to end Medicare while protecting Big Oil,” DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said.
Asked Wednesday about that charge, Kinzinger said that likening the Medicare ads run last cycle to the current Medicare debate was not an apples-to-apples comparison.
“The $500 billion, that was a pay-for that was developed in order to show savings, if you want to call it that, in Medicare, or cuts in Medicare, to pay for a health-care bill,” he said. “Two separate issues. What we’re talking about how to preserve this in the long run.”
Despite the House freshmen’s protestations, the Medicare issue is not likely to disappear from the campaign trail anytime soon. In a sign of how much Democrats are banking on the issue, the DCCC on Tuesday launched a new Web site – DontEndMedicare.com – listing House Republicans’ upcoming town hall meetings and encouraging voters to attend and raise the issue.