Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele penned an op-ed in the Washington Post on Monday accusing Democrats of looking to gut Medicare.
Five days later -- on the eve of a three-day weekend -- Democrats are hitting back.
Republicans are no friends of seniors, a new ad from the Democratic National Committee argues. The party is reminding voters that Republicans opposed Medicare from the beginning and in recent years have even voted to end it for younger generations.
The GOP did, in fact, oppose Medicare when President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law and conservative elements of the party have long sought to end it.
In 1996, GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole bragged about voting against it in 1965. "I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare . . . because we knew it wouldn't work in 1965," Dole said, according to the DNC.
Obama has proposed cutting the Medicare Advantage -- a Republican designed, privatized boondoggle that costs roughly 12 percent more than regular Medicare -- to offset spending increases associated with health care reform.
Some seniors worry they'll lose their doctor or dentist if the program is cut, and even Democrats in states with high elderly populations - Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, for instance -- are nervously watching the reaction. The GOP points to the cuts to Medicare Advantage as evidence that Democrats are cutting Medicare.
The charge is galling to the party that launched Medicare and has defended and attempted to expand it since then, which explains the sharp tone of the ad.
The ad, "Republicans Want to End Medicare," will air on cable and in Washington, D.C., a DNC aide said, and is backed by a "healthy" six-figure ad buy.
Michael Steel, spokesman for House minority Leader John Boehner, dismissed the attack. "Dick Gephardt called and he wants his talking points from the 1990s back," he said in an e-mail. "This is a feeble attempt to distract from the fact that Washington Democrats are backing hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts, and American seniors are furious about it."
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