“It is a flag we’ve planted that we will protect and defend. We have a plan. It’s called Medicare.”
That’s from Nancy Pelosi, who called me from Wisconsin, where she’s holding events today defending Medicare in Paul Ryan’s back yard. On the call, Pelosi laid out a message on Medicare she hopes Dems will use for — well, forever.
Pelosi recently came under fire from Republicans — and even some liberals — when she recently indicated that Medicare should be “on the table” for deficit reduction. Republicans claimed she now agreed with them; some liberals wondered whether even Pelosi — whose sharp line on Social Security enabled Dems to beat back George W Bush’s privatization scheme — is preparing to cave.
Asked to clarify what she meant, and to detail what sort of changes she’d be open to, Pelosi insisted that any claims she could support cuts in the program are wrong. “No benefits cuts,” she said flatly. Pelosi added that Dems have already put on the table the type of reform they should continue advocating for: The Affordable Care Act.
“We gave the blueprint for how we strengthen Medicare in the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi said, a plan which is still “ripening” and “which does not reduce benefits. It lowers costs to taxpayers, the deficit, and beneficiaries.” She said the only type of Medicare cuts she’s open to are extracting savings via bureaucratic and pharmecutical reforms that don’t touch benefits.
Pelosi said she hopes Dems frame their defense of Medicare as a matter of values, to remind voters what’s at stake. “It is a value, an ethic, a pillar,” Pelosi said, charging that Republicans want to “undermine one of the strongest pillars of economic security that seniors have.”
What about the Dems on the “Gang of Six,” who seemed prepared to offer up hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts before the talks all but collapsed?
Pushed on whether such signals from fellow Democrats suggest they may cave on Medicare and undermine the strong pro-Medicare message Pelosi wants Dems to adopt, Pelosi didn’t comment directly on the “Gang of Six” talks, but she insisted she’s not worried about the overall direction of things.
Pelosi indicated that the discussions that really matter — the big-picture deficit reduction talks between Dems and Republican that Veep Joe Biden is presiding over — were generally positive. She said all indications from these talks are that in the end, the President won’t agree to anything in the way of serious Medicare benefits cuts. And unlike in the case of negotiations over spending cuts earlier this year — when House Dems were cut out of the talks — she insisted they have a seat “at the table” this time around.
“The reports I get are positive,” Pelosi said of those talks. “I don’t think you’ll see a repetition of what happened before.”
Pelosi insisted that when all the smoke clears, the Democratic Party will still be standing by Medicare in a way liberals can accept. “The fight of this Congress and beyond will be to preserve Medicare and not have it abolished,” she said. “The three most important issues we should be talking about are Medicare, Medicare, and Medicare.”