WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) laid out the Democrats' plan of attack on the Republican budget proposal, telling progressive bloggers on a conference call Wednesday that the plan "has to be snuffed out" immediately to prevent changes to Medicare.
Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) unveiled a budget on Tuesday that would include cuts to Medicare, changing the government-run program to a voucher-like system for people under the age of 55. Although the changes would lower the federal deficit, the Congressional Budget Office reported Ryan's plan would also increase the out-of-pocket cost of health care for elderly and low-income Americans in the future.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the leading Democrat on the Budget Committee, will introduce an alternative plan on Thursday. But Pelosi said the focus for Democrats moving forward will be more on pointing out the bad in Ryan's budget than advocating for Van Hollen's.
"I think that 90 percent of our focus has to be on putting the spotlight on the bad things that are in their budget," she said. "What we have to do is take down the notion that they have that you can end Medicare guarantees for seniors while you give tens of billions of dollars in tax subsidies to big oil."
Pelosi said she is encouraging House Democrats to hold telephone town halls, make YouTube videos, write Facebook posts and take to Twitter to combat Ryan's budget plan.
Her approach will be similar to the House Democrat strategy in 2005, when President George W. Bush wanted to privatize Social Security. At the time, Democrats held town hall after town hall to criticize the president's plan, but did not offer their own proposal -- the lack of which Pelosi said was "the most important" part of the 2005 strategy's success.
"We couldn't have our own proposal on Social Security, because it would confuse the public [about] which one does this and which one does that, and once you put another proposal on the table you're conceding that there must be some big problem," Pelosi said. "And we're saying that we have a proposal on the table. It's called Social Security."
Pelosi said the main difference between that fight over Social Security and the current budget fight over Medicare is the amount of time Democrats have to raise awareness about the plan.
"This has to be done in a matter of days," she said. "This thing has to be snuffed out. The public needs to know that this is what [Republicans] would do left to their own devices. [...] They would end Medicare for seniors."