DCCC Chair Steve Israel Relays Fears Over Candidate Recruitment If Dems Buckle On Medicare

07/08/2011 03:38 pm ET | Updated Sep 07, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel warned lawmakers on Friday that he would have trouble recruiting candidates for office if the party caved on Medicare during the debt ceiling negotiations.

The comments came during a closed-door caucus meeting. Multiple sources confirmed the remarks, describing them as "impassioned."

"He said recruits would not consider running if Democrats did not stand up for Medicare," one attendee told The Huffington Post. "He added that national polling showed a seismic shift against House Republicans after the [Paul] Ryan budget because of Medicare."

Israel's warning adds yet another political element to a debt-ceiling debate that is entering its 11th hour. House Democrats were surprised to wake up Thursday morning to reports that the White House was putting both Medicare and Social Security on the negotiating table. Previously, Democrats had pushed to have entitlement reforms be considered on a separate track, if considered at all.

During the caucus meeting, the attendee emailed, "there was great frustration that the Obama administration was discussing cutting Medicare and Social Security (there was a little less emphasis on Medicaid). The general sense was that protecting Medicare and Social Security was a defining Democratic value, and that agreeing to cuts would be a gift to Republicans if not political suicide."

Israel, who as DCCC chair is charged with getting members elected, brought up the electoral implications. Democratic lawmakers have tried to draw a distinction between cuts to Medicare benefits and those that could be applied to health care suppliers. But officials -- including, presumably, Israel -- have worried that any changes to Medicare would dull the criticisms Democrats have levied against Republicans for attempting to turn Medicare into a voucher program.