GOP Medicare plan goes down in flames

In a 40-57 vote on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate rejected the budget passed by House Republicans. Washington Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray both voted against the budget, which would have replaced Medicare’s guaranteed health care funding for seniors with underfunded vouchers for private insurance, forcing a typical 65-year-old to spend $6,359 more a year in out-of-pocket costs by 2022. It also would have made drastic cuts to services for children and working families to pay for tax cuts that mostly would benefit corporations and the wealthy.

Despite polls showing Americans overwhelmingly opposed the Medicare voucher plan, every Republican in Washington’s Congressional delegation supported the plan anyway, parroting the false talking points of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Mo.) in the process. Freshman Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3rd) recently reiterated her support for the unpopular plan.

All Senate Democrats opposed the proposal Wednesday, as did Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rand Paul of Kentucky. (Paul, a tea party favority, said the budget didn’t go far enough.)

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said this about Wednesday evening’s vote:

This tea party budget would destroy the fabric of our country rather than put America back to work and focus on what’s important….While it cuts $4.3 trillion in spending that mainly helps middle- and low-income Americans, it gives out $4.2 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations. This is no more than a pass-through to enrich the already rich at a time when inequality stands at historic levels….

Those who supported this measure need look no further than the NY-26 special election to see that voters are watching and there are consequences to supporting corporate CEOs at the expense of working people.

In Tuesday’s election for an open seat in New York’s 26th Congressional District, Democrat Kathy Hochul, who was considered an all-but-certain loser two months ago in a conservative district, beat Republican Jane Corwin by seizing on her support of the GOP Medicare plan. Now Democrats are signaling they intend to make the Medicare proposal a key issue in next year’s Congressional elections.

Today, the Washington Post suggests cutting Medicare has become the third rail of American politics:

In the mid-1990s, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich pushed for $270 billion in Medicare savings. He got a government shutdown and contributed to President Clinton’s reelection in 1996. Last year, Democrats passed a health care bill that cut $500 billion from Medicare, and senior citizens issued a strong rebuke in the 2010 election, swinging about 20 points towards Republicans. And now, Republicans have lost a special election in western New York and are worried that they might be putting their 2012 prospects in jeopardy with an ambitious proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

If the Washington Post is right, apparently the Republicans out here in this Washington still haven’t gotten the memo.

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