"Do or Do not. There is no try."

The GOP’s Hezbollah Wing Is Now Fully In Control

I have a guest column at the Daily Beast about the Republican Party’s self-destructive decision to support the Paul Ryan budget and, faced with the disastrous consequences, to dig in deeper. For an example of digging in deeper, check out Marc Thiessen’s column today. In the face of clear evidence to the contrary, he asserts that Kathy Hochul won in New York only because a third party spoiler split the Republican vote.

Having assigned to the Republican 100% of Jack Davis’s third party vote, Thiessen proceeds to argue, “Democrat Kathy Hochul won only a 47 percent plurality — just one point more than Barack Obama got when he lost the district back in 2008. As national referendums go, that is not terribly convincing.” It’s not? If House Democrats beat Obama’s 2008 vote by one percentage point in the next election, who does Thiessen think will control the House? You could argue that Hochul is just one data point and probably an outlier, and I’d agree. But it is a data point with clear negative implications for Republicans.

After asserting that the race proved almost nothing about Medicare, Thiessen then, arguing in the alternative, suggests a solution for Republicans to fight back anyway:

[T]he lesson of the New York special election is that if Republicans want to win in 2012, they need to stop playing defense and go on the offensive.

Why on earth have Republicans allowed Democrats to define the Ryan proposal as a plan to “end Medicare” when it is the Democrats who risk ending Medicare though a policy of neglect? Even the New York Times editorial page warned after the New York vote, “Sooner or later, Democrats will have to admit that Medicare cannot keep running as it is — its medical costs are out of control, and a recent report showed its trust fund running out of money in 2024, five years earlier than expected.”

Democrats have put forward no plan to deal with this fiscal crisis. Quite the opposite, they made it worse by taking $500 billion out of Medicare to help fund the president’s health-care law — robbing Medicare to pay for Obamacare. The time has come for the GOP to take the gloves off. When liberal groups put up an ad showing Ryan pushing Grandma off of a cliff, Republicans need to counter with an ad showing Obama, Pelosi and Reid pushing Grandma off the cliff — because that is where Medicare is headed if we follow their policy of inaction. The message should be: If we do nothing, Medicare will collapse — and millions of retirees will be left without health coverage. Democratic neglect will kill Medicare; Republicans are trying to save it.

Next, Republicans need to expand the debate. The Medicare proposal is just one element of a broader GOP plan to reduce our ballooning debt — which, in turn, is one element of a larger plan to restore economic growth and create jobs.

So, accuse democrats of letting Medicare go bankrupt, promise that you just want to save it, and then try to persuade voters that preserving the Bush tax cuts that have been in place for a decade will stimulate growth. Wow, why haven’t Republicans thought of this plan before?


By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, May 31, 2011

May 31, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Democrats, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Medicare, Politics, Rep Paul Ryan, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors | , , , , | Leave a comment

Republicans Ignored Warnings On Paul Ryan Plan

It might be a political time bomb — that’s what GOP pollsters warned as House  Republicans prepared for the April 15 vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed budget, with its plan to dramatically remake Medicare.

No matter how favorably pollsters with the Tarrance Group or other firms spun  the bill in their pitch — casting it as the only path to saving the beloved  health entitlement for seniors — the Ryan budget’s approval rating barely budged above the  high 30s or its disapproval below 50 percent, according to a Republican  operative familiar with the presentation.

The poll numbers on the plan were so toxic — nearly as bad as  those of President Barack Obama’s health reform bill at the nadir of its  unpopularity — that staffers with the National Republican Congressional  Committee warned leadership, “You might not want to go there” in a series of  tense pre-vote meetings.

But go there Republicans did, en masse and with rhetorical gusto — transforming the political landscape for 2012, giving Democrats a new shot at  life and forcing the GOP to suddenly shift from offense to defense.

It’s been more than a month since Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his  lieutenant, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) boldly positioned their party as  a beacon of fiscal responsibility — a move many have praised as principled, if  risky. In the process, however, they raced through political red lights to pass  Ryan’s controversial measure in a deceptively unified 235-193 vote, with only  four GOP dissenters.

The story of how it passed so quickly — with a minimum of public  hand-wringing and a frenzy of backroom machinations — is a tale of colliding  principles and power politics set against the backdrop of a fickle and anxious  electorate.

The outward unity projected by House Republicans masked weeks of fierce  debate, even infighting, and doubt over a measure that stands virtually no  chance of becoming law. In a series of heated closed-door exchanges, dissenters,  led by Ryan’s main internal rival — House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave  Camp (R-Mich.) — argued for a less radical, more bipartisan approach, GOP  staffers say.

At a fundraiser shortly after the vote, a frustrated Camp groused, “We  shouldn’t have done it” and that he was “overridden,” according to a person in  attendance.

A few days earlier, as most Republicans remained mute during a GOP conference  meeting on the Ryan plan, Camp rose and drily asserted, “People in my district like Medicare,” one lawmaker, who is now having his own  doubts about voting yes, told POLITICO.

At the same time, GOP pollsters, political consultants and House and NRCC  staffers vividly reminded leadership that their members were being forced to  walk the plank for a piece of quixotic legislation. They described for  leadership the horrors that might be visited on the party during the next  campaign, comparing it time and again with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s  decision to ram through a cap-and-trade bill despite the risks it posed to  Democratic incumbents.

“The tea party itch has definitely not been scratched, so the voices who were  saying, ‘Let’s do this in a way that’s politically survivable,’ got drowned out  by a kind of panic,” a top GOP consultant involved in the debate said, on  condition of anonymity.

“The feeling among leadership was, we have to be true to the people who put  us here. We don’t know what to do, but it has to be bold.”

Another GOP insider involved to the process was more morbid: “Jumping off a  bridge is bold, too.”

Time will tell whether the Medicare vote, the most politically  significant legislative act of the 112th Congress thus far, will be viewed by  2012 voters as a courageous act of fiscal responsibility — or as an unforced  error that puts dozens of marginal GOP seats and the party’s presidential  candidates at serious risk. That question might be answered, in part, this week  during a special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District, in which  Republican Jane Corwin appears to be losing ground to Democrat Kathy Hochul.

The GOP message team is already scrambling to redefine the issue as a  Republican attempt to “save” Medicare, not kill it.

But the party’s stars remain stubbornly misaligned. Presidential hopeful Newt  Gingrich candidly described the Medicare plan as “right-wing social engineering”  — only to pull it back when Ryan and others griped. And Priorities USA Action,  an independent group started by two West Wing veterans of the Obama  administration, was out Friday with its first ad, a TV spot in South Carolina  using Gingrich’s words to savage Mitt Romney for saying he was on the “same  page” as Ryan.

“The impact of what the House Republicans have done is just enormous. It will  be a litmus test in the GOP [presidential] primary,” said former White House  deputy press secretary Bill Burton, one of the group’s founders.

“I couldn’t believe these idiots — I don’t know what else to call them — they’re idiots. … They actually made their members vote on it. It was  completely stunning to me,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat  who worked hard to win over the western part of his state, which has among the  highest concentration of elderly voters in the country.

It was also the site of some of the Democrats’ worst losses in 2010 — three  swing House seats Democrats hope to recapture next year, largely on the strength  of the Medicare argument.

“Look at [freshman House members in the Pittsburgh-Scranton area], they make  them vote on this when they’re representing one of the oldest districts in the  country?” Rendell asked.

“We have a message challenge, a big one, and that’s what the polling is  showing,” conceded Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a former Karl Rove protégé who  enthusiastically backed the Ryan plan. “There’s no way you attack the deficit in  my lifetime without dealing with the growth of Medicare. Do we get a political  benefit from proposing a legitimate solution to a major policy problem? That’s  an open question.”

The House Republican leadership had hinted at an emerging plan to tackle  entitlement reform on Feb. 14 — the day Obama released his budget without  reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Cantor caught Hill reporters by surprise when he said, nonchalantly, that the  Republican budget would be a “serious document that will reflect the type of  path we feel we should be taking to address the fiscal situation, including  addressing entitlement reforms.”

But there were also internal motivations in the decision to go big on  Medicare, rooted in Boehner’s still tenuous grasp of the leadership reins,  according to a dozen party operatives and Hill staffers interviewed by  POLITICO.

Republican sources said Boehner, who has struggled to control his  rambunctious new majority, needed to send a message to conservative upstarts  that he was serious about bold fiscal reform — especially after some of the 63  freshmen rebelled against his 2011 budget deal that averted a government  shutdown.

Then there’s the ever-present friction between Boehner and Cantor, who, along  with Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), has positioned himself as the next  generation of GOP leadership and champion of the conservative freshman class.

Boehner’s camp said the speaker has always supported the Ryan  approach — which would offer vouchers to future Medicare recipients currently  younger than 55 in lieu of direct federal subsidies — and proved his support by  voting for a similar measure in 2009.

“Boehner has said for years, including leading up to the 2010 election, that  we would honestly deal with the big challenges facing our country,” said his  spokesman, Michael Steel. “With 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day, it is  clear to everyone that Medicare will not be there for future generations unless  it is reformed. The status quo means bankruptcy and deep benefit cuts for  seniors. It’s clear who the real grown-ups in the room are. We’ve told the truth  and led, while the Democrats who run Washington have cravenly scrambled and lied  for partisan gain.”

But that message hasn’t always been quite that clear. On several occasions,  Boehner has seemed squishy on the Ryan budget. In talking to ABC News, Boehner  said he was “not wedded” to the plan and that it was “worthy of consideration.”

Still, even if Boehner had opposed the plan — and his top aide, Barry  Jackson, expressed concerns about the political fallout to other staffers — he  probably couldn’t have stopped the Ryan Express anyway, so great was the push  from freshmen and conservatives.

That’s not to say some of the speaker’s allies from the Midwest didn’t try.  Camp and Ryan hashed out their differences in a series of private meetings that,  on occasion, turned testy, according to several GOP aides. Camp argued that the  Ryan plan, which he backed in principle — and eventually voted for — was a  nonstarter that would only make it harder to reach a bipartisan framework on  real entitlement reform.

A few weeks later, Camp told a health care conference that, from a pragmatic  legislative perspective, he considered the Ryan budget history. “Frankly, I’m  not interested in talking about whether the House is going to pass a bill that  the Senate shows no interest in. I’m not interested in laying down more  markers,” he said.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) also made  the case for a more moderate approach — but his principal concern was the  Medicaid portion of Ryan’s plan, an approach he believed wouldn’t do enough to  reduce burdens of indigent care on states.

But even as Democrats high-five over the possibility of Medicare-fueled  political gains, Republicans are trying to muster a unified defense. Cantor, for  his part, stumbled by suggesting to a Washington Post reporter that the Ryan  Medicare provisions might be ditched during bipartisan debt negotiations being  led by Vice President Joe Biden.

Cantor later clarified his remarks and claimed he still backed the Ryan  principles, but no GOP staffer interviewed for this article believed the  Medicare overhaul has any realistic chance of passage.

By: Glenn Thrush and Jake Sherman, Politico, May 23, 2011

May 23, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Deficits, GOP, Government, Health Reform, Ideology, Individual Mandate, Journalists, Lawmakers, Media, Politics, Rep Paul Ryan, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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