WASHINGTON, DC – Even as they defended a plan to overhaul Medicare as key to the long-term fiscal prospects of the nation, three Colorado House Republicans acknowledged it may not be in their party’s short-term political interest.
The 2013 budget blueprint unveiled Tuesday by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) seeks in part to get the nation out of debt. Central to the plan is a reform of Medicare, which provides medical insurance to the disabled and elderly, whose ranks are growing as the baby-boom generation retires.
Ryan’s proposal would give seniors who retire after 2021 the choice of staying in the federal program or switching to a private insurance plan.
Monday, his Budget Committee released the following video outlining the country’s fiscal challenges and touting his plans for reform:
Democrats argue the change would turn the 47-year-old federal entitlement into a voucher program and undermine its financial future. In an effort to portray the party as defenders of the popular program, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has placed robo-calls in the districts of 41 vulnerable House Republican candidates, calling on them to oppose changes to Medicare.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) admitted the Medicare proposal could hurt GOP congressional candidates this fall. “If it’s demagogued, there is the potential for negative fallout,” he said in an interview. “It is a difficult issue to deal with in an election year because some Democrats will use it as an opportunity to demonize the issue (of reform).”
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), a first-term incumbent, shrugged off a question as to whether Ryan’s plan could hurt vulnerable GOP congressional candidates this November. “Doing nothing for the program means there will be no Medicare in ten years,” he said.
Rep. Scott Tipton (D-Cortez), a first-term member who eked out a 9,000-vote victory two years ago, sought to pre-empt Democratic criticism of Ryan’s proposal. “It’s got bipartisan support with (Ron) Wyden,” Tipton said of the senior Democratic senator from Oregon who endorsed the Medicare overhaul last year. “Let’s stop demonizing this issue and start discussing reform.”
Not every Colorado House Republican acknowledged or indicated that Ryan’s Medicare proposal might hurt the GOP politically.
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Lone Tree) rebutted the political conventional wisdom that Ryan’s plan contributed to the defeat of a Republican candidate in a conservative-leaning district in upstate New York last year. “I think in the New York race, Republicans were defensive on whether they supported it and defended it late,” he said.
Asked if he supports Ryan’s proposal, Coffman declined to say so. He emphasized that Medicare payments should be income adjusted in which wealthier seniors pay more for benefits than low-income recipients.
For his part, Democratic Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) said seniors are uncomfortable with proposed changes to the 47-year-old program. “Seniors want to see certainty in regards to Mediare,” he said.
Democratic Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Diana DeGette did not respond to a request for comment.
Other Democrats believe the Ryan plan could help the party regain control of the House this fall, flipping more than two dozen seats from Republican to Democratic hands.