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Herrera Beutler still backing Medicare cuts

While many Republicans in Congress are backing away from cutting and privatizing Medicare, freshman U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3rd) is reaffirming her support for the controversial proposal despite overwhelming public opposition. And it’s winning her some accolades — from the drug companies.

Last month, Herrera Beutler joined the rest of Washington’s Republican delegation in supporting U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s debt-reduction plan for 2012 that would turn Medicare into a voucher program which seniors would use to buy insurance from private insurance companies. The plan would require seniors to pay significantly more out of pocket for the same coverage.

At a recent town hall meeting in Vancouver that was open to the public, Herrera Beutler heard boos and catcalls when she claimed her vote was to “protect Medicare.” But as The Olympian’s Brad Shannon reports, she found a friendlier audience Wednesday at a Tumwater Rotary meeting, even as she reiterated her support for the plan.

Retired insurance salesman Dave Estergard, who attended the Rotary event, called the freshman Republican “the best member of Congress in the United States.”

He may as well have been speaking for the entire insurance and pharmaceutical industry.

The 60 Plus Association, a conservative retiree front group that supports Social Security and Medicare privatization and is reportedly financed by drug companies, recently rewarded Herrera Beutler for her vote by conducting a direct mail and phone campaign on her behalf, telling citizens in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District that their representative’s vote was to “protect Medicare.”

The AARP has reported that 60 Plus was funded by PhRMA and four pharmaceutical companies, Hanwha International, Merck, Pfizer, and Wyeth-Ayerst. As a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, 60 Plus can accept corporate donations, but is not required to disclose its funding sources, which it doesn’t.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hat tip to Cliff Weathers at who reported about the “sham awards” being handed out by 60 Plus to Republicans like Herrera Beutler who voted for the Medicare voucher plan. Check out the photos of 60 Plus’s assembly line of award presentations to members of Congress who voted for it. Each receives an award in front of a banner that reads, “Senior citizens thank you for protecting Medicare and Social Security.”

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds that just 30% of seniors support the plan, which may explain why many House Republicans who voted for the plan are running for the hills in retreat (unlike Herrera Beutler).

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