WASHINGTON -- Besieged by attacks over House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's Medicare plan, Republican lawmakers are amplifying their message that it was President Barack Obama's health care law, not theirs, that pushed draconian cuts to the entitlement program.
The only problem: The Wisconsin Republican's plan incorporates the very same cuts to Medicare that were part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The latest Republicans in an increasingly expanding circle of GOP lawmakers to ignore this point were presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty and Ryan, himself. Pawlenty -- during an appearance on "Morning Joe" in which he both defended the Ryan plan and insisted he'd reform Medicare differently -- took umbrage with Obama for doing nothing other than slashing Medicare.
"If as president, my choices are something like Barack Obama's plan, which is nothing -- in fact, in Obama-care, he just flat out cuts Medicare –- and Congressman Ryan's plan, I would sign Ryan's plan," said Pawlenty. "But I've got my own plan -- or I will have my own plan -- and that's the one I am going to propose and advance."
"Obama-care kills Medicare as we know it," Ryan said on Fox News the night before, adding that his plan would stop the cuts to Medicare that the president placed in the ACA. "Obama-care raids $500 billion from Medicare to spend on Obama-care, puts in place a 15-panel board to ration Medicare by unelected bureaucrats."
"Our budget, repeals the raiding, gets rid of the rationing board, preserves this program, makes no changes for a person 55 years of age or older and saves Medicare, by reforming it for our generation, so it's solvent," he said. "The president's plan does not save Medicare, it allows it to go bankrupt, rations the program and raids the program. We get rid of the rationing, we stop the raiding and we save the program from bankruptcy."
Bemoaning the president's raiding of Medicare was a trademark feature of the GOP's election platform in 2010.
But for Ryan to say that his law repeals the raiding is to ignore both the realities of his own budget -- he wanted to show the maximum amount of savings so he kept the cuts and got rid of the subsidies -- and the previous statements of his own office. The $500 billion in cuts that the ACA makes to Medicare over 10 years are one of the few parts of the president's health care law that the Wisconsin Republican preserved, his spokesman Conor Sweeney acknowledged to the Associated Press upon the budget's unveiling.
Neither Sweeney nor a spokesman for Pawlenty responded to a request for comment.
To their credit, however, they aren't the only Republicans brushing aside the fact that Ryan's budget incorporates the same Medicare cuts from Obama's plan. Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) has done the same. As has Florida Sen. Marco Rubio whose spokesperson insisted that, because Obama's cuts to Medicare were already law, Ryan was therefore not inflicting any further damage.
"The bizzarre thing about attacks on the savings the Affordable Care Act achieved from Medicare was that every Republican that voted for the Republican budget that ended Medicare also voted for the ACA ones as well because Ryan kept them," emailed Eddie Vale, a spokesman for Protect Your Care, a group recently launched to support the president's health care law.
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