POLITICS
06/27/2011 09:21 am ET | Updated Aug 27, 2011

Jim Sensenbrenner Backs Off Medicare Plan

WASHINGTON -- One of the most conservative veteran Republicans in the House, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, backed away from the GOP's controversial Medicare plan at a town hall in his Wisconsin district on Sunday, according to a report from the local Brookfield Patch.

Sensenbrenner was pressed by a 54-year-old constituent, who would lose the guaranteed coverage offered by Medicare under the plan put forward by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and instead be required to purchase private insurance with a government voucher.

"If it's good enough for the people 54 and younger ... then I think it's good enough for people 55 and older," said the constituent, who Patch identified as Paul Race, a former Marine and a teacher of 25 years.

Sensenbrenner declined to back Ryan's plan on Sunday, backtracking from his earlier support of the proposal. "I'm not here to say he's right or he's wrong, but at least he's got a plan," he told the town hall. But when the same Medicare-altering proposal came before the house in April, Sensenbrenner voted to support it.

Republicans both new and old are backing off the Ryan's proposal, which polls, protests and constituent phone calls all suggest is overwhelmingly unpopular. Freshman Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) struck a note similar to Sensenbrenner's, backing off Ryan's specific proposal. "My challenge to the Democrats has been to come up with another plan so we can begin a debate," Buerkle said, according to the Post-Standard in upstate New York. "That's all this is -- a place to start the debate."

Buerkle said she personally fielded calls from sobbing seniors worried about the loss of health care access. Democrats, meanwhile, are so far refusing to bail Republicans out of the jam Ryan's budget has put them in. "We have a plan: It's called Medicare," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said.