The Rivlin-Ryan divorce


The case: Rivlin v. Ryan.

The column noted that that Ryan “worked with Alice Rivlin, who had been Bill Clinton’s budget director, to develop a Medicare reform plan.” But, it continued, Ryan “abandoned his partner Rivlin, proposing a Medicare reform that has a lower Medicare growth rate than they had agreed on, and one that doesn’t maintain fee-for-service Medicare as an option.”

Then I got an e-mail from Ryan’s spokesman, Conor Sweeney, saying that this is “false” and that the Rivlin-Ryan Medicare plan did not keep fee-for-service Medicare as an option.

Oh? This claim from Ryan’s office appeared to contradict what Rivlin had told my colleague Ezra Klein – that one of the reasons she wouldn’t support the Medicare plan in Ryan’s budget is “because it doesn’t preserve fee-for-service Medicare as the default option.”

So I asked Rivlin about Ryan’s claim that fee-for-service Medicare was not part of the Rivlin-Ryan plan. Her reply: “My position is clear. I support premium support that includes traditional Medicare as the default option. ‘Rivlin Ryan’ was never a ‘plan.’ It was a draft discussion document for Simpson Bowles [the debt commission] that never went anywhere.”

Rivlin-Ryan was never a plan? So why has Ryan been claiming with some frequency that the “Rivlin-Ryan plan” was the basis for his Medicare proposal in the House GOP budget? When he unveiled his budget and Medicare last month, Ryan claimed: “Alice Rivlin is a great, proud Democrat, Brookings Institution, Clinton OMB director. This path to prosperity builds upon those Rivlin-Ryan plans that we put in here.”

In happier times, before he released his Medicare proposal, Ryan referred to Rivlin as one of his “new favorite Democrats.” But that was before she said she wants out of their hyphenated relationship.

Dana Milbank writes about political theater in the nation’s capital. He joined the Post as a political reporter in 2000.

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