John Boehner made some comments to reporters today about the results in New York’s 26th Congressional district, and the quote that’s getting most of the attention is his claim that Medicare played only a “small part” of the Dem victory on Tuesday night.
But I think this Boehner quote, buried in Dave Weigel’s report on today’s presser, is the more interesting one:
“The only people in Washington, DC who have voted to cut Medicare have been the Democrats,” said Boehner, “when they voted to cut $500 billion in Medicare during Obamacare.”
Only Dems “voted to cut Medicare”? Of course, House Republicans did vote to pass the Ryan budget back in April; only four House Republicans voted against it. The only way for Boehner’s claim to be true is if the Ryan plan doesn’t cut Medicare. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Ryan plan cuts the amount of Medicare spending on seniors in relation to overall health care costs. It also reduces the amount of annual Medicare spending as a share of GDP. For it to be true that only Dems have voted to cut Medicare, neither of those would have to count as cuts.
The claim that only Dems have voted to cut Medicare has previously been used as a Senate GOP talking point, before the Senate had voted on the Ryan plan. As Marco Rubio put it recently: “The only people in this town that have voted to cut Medicare are the people that supported Obamacare.”
You can see why Senate Republicans were cool to the idea of voting on the Ryan plan. It makes it harder to attack Dems as the only ones who have actually cast a vote to cut Medicare. Indeed, Politico quotes sources claiming that Mitch McConnell privately warned John Boehner of the political perils of including a major Medicare overhaul in the budget Republicans passed.
That aside, Boehner’s comments today take the GOP plan to attack Dems from the left on Medicare — which Senate Republicans have openly signaled is their strategy — to its logical conclusion. It isn’t just about muddying the waters by persuading voters that both sides want to cut Medicare and that the argument is over the details. The claim is that only Democrats have ever voted to cut Medicare.
UPDATE: A Boehner spokesman responds, and doubles down on the claim.