GOP officials are girding for the Medicare attacks, which they concede come with a history of success for Democrats.
The offensive will begin Wednesday with a flurry of automated phone calls to voters in 30 Republican-held congressional districts, accusing the GOP of “forcing” a supercommittee failure because they wanted to protect tax breaks for the wealthy by cutting Medicare.
“The supercommittee failed because Republicans insisted on extending the Bush tax breaks for millionaires and refusing to include a jobs proposal – while ending the Medicare guarantee,” a recorded voice tells voters, according to a script released by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which sets party strategy for House races.
The caller then adds: “By rejecting a balanced approach, Republicans chose to protect the wealthiest one percent at the expense of seniors and the middle class.”
Such an attack probably would have been difficult had the supercommittee been able to reach an agreement involving cuts to Medicare and Social Security, because Democratic complicity in a deal might have forced a detente on entitlement politics.
The new Democratic effort illustrates why an agreement has been so elusive. Both sides are acutely aware of the political risks of compromise, while the supercommittee failure has allowed each party to retreat to familiar ground.
Some Republicans, for instance, showed a willingness to defy GOP doctrine and raise taxes to reach a deal, while many conservatives argued that the party was better off taking the fight into the 2012 election campaigns, painting Democrats as taxers and spenders.
Democrats may have had more to gain from a stalemate. The automatic cuts that will be triggered by the lack of a deal will largely spare safety-net programs and entitlements that are sacred to Democratic constituencies, and the lack of an agreement on tax policy means that the George W. Bush-era tax cuts could expire after 2012, which would delight many Democrats.
Party strategists say they received a political gift when GOP supercommittee negotiators offered to work from the budget blueprint designed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) which passed the Republican-led House this year. That plan would change Medicare from the federal entitlement it has been for decades to a voucher program: Seniors who join Medicare in 2022 and beyond would receive subsidies to help pay for private insurance they would buy.