Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon refused to talk about Medicare reform on the campaign trail in 2010 and was silent about entitlement programs in March when she unveiled her jobs plan which called for a one percent cut in federal spending.
But Mitt Romney’s decision to choose U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate got her campaign to take a position on the program for the first time.
“Linda McMahon will never support a budget that cuts Medicare,” Corry Bliss, McMahon’s campaign manager, said in a statement.
Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, proposed a budget which would transition Medicare in 2022 from a guaranteed coverage program for new enrollees and replace it with vouchers that would allow seniors to buy private health insurance with a government subsidy. The argument is that it would force private insurance companies to compete against each other and thus lower costs to the federal government. In the meantime, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it would increase the out-of-pocket costs to seniors by nearly $6,000.
Bliss’ statement on behalf of McMahon opened her up to criticism from her opponents.
“Maybe by the end of race we’ll discover McMahon’s plans for Medicare,” Democrat Chris Murphy said Saturday after a rally in New Britain.
McMahon‘s economic plan calls for cutting middle class taxes and paying for it with a one percent reduction in federal spending. However, when she announced her plan in March she made it clear that defense spending would not be included in her one percent spending reduction.
At that press conference in March where she unveiled her economic plan, she was vague about whether that one percent would include cuts to entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security.
“Clearly we’re going to have to address entitlements because we know they‘re not sustainable” McMahon said back in March. “But at this particular point my focus and emphasis today is to talk about jobs and my plan to spur the economy.”
Back in 2010 McMahon said the campaign trail wasn’t the place to talk about entitlements.
“I really do think we’re going to have strengthen all of our entitlement programs, but that’s not really a discussion for the campaign trail,” McMahon said at the Manchester Peach Festival back in August 2010.
Murphy, who has been criticized by McMahon for having a jobs plan that is still work in progress, said “it’s increasingly unclear what her economic plan is.”
Now in addition to defense spending, cuts to Medicare are off the table as a way to balance McMahon’s middle class tax cuts.
“This plan seems to be blowing up in her face because it’s a massive prescription for deficit increases,” Murphy alleged.
Tim Murtaugh, McMahon’s spokesman, shot back that there’s only one candidate in this race who has cut Medicare spending by $500 billion.
When he voted for the Patient and Affordable Care Act, Murphy endorsed cutting $500 billion from Medicare, Murtaugh said Saturday.
It’s a talking point Romney himself made Saturday in introducing Ryan.
“Unlike the current president, who has cut Medicare funding by $700 billion, we will preserve and protect Medicare and Social Security,” Romney said Saturday.
But the Congressional Budget Office said last month that the Medicare provisions in the health care law would save $700 billion over a decade. PolitiFact breaks down the “mostly false” claim here.
Ryan is the “face of Medicare privatization,” Murphy said. “You would never pick him as your vice presidential candidate if you weren’t going to adopt his plan for Medicare.”
Susan Bysiewicz, the other Democrat running for U.S. Senate, agreed.
“Ryan’s budget plan would turn Medicare into a voucher system that would cost seniors thousands in out-of-pocket costs just so billionaires can have a tax break,“ she said. “Giving a tax break to billionaires which is financed by seniors and the middle class is wrong.”
Former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, the other Republican in the race, sent out an email earlier in the day praising the announcement of Ryan as the vice presidential nominee.
But as far as his proposal for Medicare is concerned Shays’ believes something needs to be done.
“In order to protect and save Medicare for future generations, Christopher believes there will have to be reforms to the program,” Amanda Bergen, Shays’ spokeswoman, said.
“But none of these reforms should impact seniors currently receiving Medicare benefits. As Paul Ryan said, Medicare is heading for a painful collapse. We can save Medicare but we have to reform it so it delivers the high quality we expect at a price we can afford,” she added.