WASHINGTON -- Democrats are not waiting long to use Rep. Paul Ryan's federal budget proposal for next year as a campaign billy club.
Last week, the House passed the Wisconsin Republican's $3.5 trillion budget plan, complete with measures to switch Medicare to a private system, slash more than $700 billion from Medicaid, and cut programs such as food stamps.
On Monday, the Democratic-aligned Americans United for Change and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are firing off a round of ads aimed at Ryan and three other Republicans in tough races, focusing especially on the electorally potent topic of Medicare.
Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, and his colleagues took a beating over his plan last year, and the ads predict it will happen again.
"Last year, Congressman Ryan voted to end Medicare," the ad says, arguing that the push to switch Medicare to a significantly less generous private system will essentially end the program that seniors now rely on.
"Back home, we gave that young man an earful," the ad continues in the scolding voice of an apparently retired woman. "You'd think he’d have learned his lesson. Think again," the woman says.
"Does he think we were born yesterday?” she asks.
Republicans, for their part, contend that they would be ensuring Medicare's survival by reforming it and that without some change, the program will go bankrupt. But they also used the more modest Medicare cuts in President Barack Obama's health care reform law to hammer Democrats in the 2010 elections. (The Affordable Care Act reduced payments to private insurers under the more costly Medicare Advantage program by $500 billion.)
The ad sponsors think the issue will work just as well for them, especially since the Ryan plan digs much more deeply into the core program.
"Medicare has opened doors to necessary care for generations for seniors and individuals with permanent disabilities. The Ryan budget, adopted by the House of Representatives, would end five decades of Medicare's guaranteed access to modern medicine and give millionaires a staggering $265,000 apiece in a new tax cut," said AFSCME President Gerald McEntee. "The health of seniors should be a higher priority than tax breaks for the wealthiest individuals and corporations -- but not according to the Ryan budget."
McEntee was referring to Ryan's proposal to cut income taxes to just two flat rates of 15 percent and 25 percent -- that includes for corporations and wealthy individuals.
The GOP intends to cast its budget plan as proof that Republicans are willing to make the tough choices to get the federal deficit under control. Democrats will argue that the GOP only wants to make tough choices for the elderly and poor.
"The Republican members of Congress who lined up to vote for the Ryan-Romney budget are calling themselves 'courageous' –- they're admiring each other for the 'tough,' 'serious,' 'bold,' 'fiscally responsible' decisions they’ve made for the 'good of the country,'" said Tom McMahon, the head of Americans United. "But can anyone tell me what is 'courageous' about forcing seniors in nursing homes on Medicaid to find somewhere else to go or taking away health care from sick kids, but continuing to hand over $40 billion worth of subsidies to the big oil companies?"
Republicans won't be surprised by the ads. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) admitted last week that the president's and Ryan's budget proposals are as much election platforms as spending blueprints and that the GOP intends to run on Ryan's.
"Well, when the president and I were in our [budget] discussions, and we would get hung up or have a disagreement over something, the president would look at me and say, 'John, this is what elections are for,'" Boehner told reporters. "Yes, Mr. President, this is what elections are for."
Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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