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Nancy Pelosi Defended By House Progressives In Tussle With Russ Feingold

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WASHINGTON -- Leading members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are coming to the defense of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California after former Sen. Russ Feingold challenged her commitment to protecting Social Security and Medicare.

"Let's remember that we are on the same team," reads a letter being circulated by progressive House Democrats. "We need to focus our efforts on the true targets, which are the 228 House Republicans who voted to end the Medicare guarantee, reduce benefits and increase costs for seniors."

The letter has so far been signed by Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the progressive caucus co-chairmen, as well as Reps. Jan. Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), who sit on the progressive caucus committee that deals with aging issues.

The House liberals told Feingold, a Wisconsin progressive, that "we are concerned by the email sent by your organization on May 3, 2012, which raises questions about House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s commitment to Social Security and Medicare. The email states that she indicated 'a disturbing potential willingness to adopt a plan that could slash these benefits.' This statement unfairly characterizes Leader Pelosi's record and position on Social Security and Medicare."

Feingold, who lost his Senate seat in the 2010 election, had been responding to Pelosi's recent comments that she would have been willing to vote for what's known as the Simpson-Bowles plan, which includes a mix of cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, other social programs, with revenue increases. It would also trim the Pentagon budget.


The progressive caucus letter does not address the Simpson-Bowles comments.

"The question remains -- does Leader Pelosi support benefit cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security?" said Cole Leystra, executive director of Progressives United, the political organization Feingold founded last year.

Read the full letter below:

Senator Russ Feingold
Progressives United
P.O. Box 620533
Middleton, WI, 53562
Dear Senator Feingold:

We write today as your progressive Democratic colleagues – and as the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Co-Chairs of Seniors Task Force. Over many years we have worked together and stood for economic and social justice. We have admired your leadership on our shared agenda. Support for Social Security and Medicare have been among our core shared values. In this context we are concerned by the email sent by your organization on May 3, 2012 which raises questions about House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s commitment to Social Security and Medicare. The email states that she indicated “a disturbing potential willingness to adopt a plan that could slash these benefits."

This statement unfairly characterizes Leader Pelosi’s record and position on Social Security and Medicare. Together we have worked with Leader Pelosi for more than two decades. In our experience Leader Pelosi stands out as one of the strongest champions for Social Security and Medicare throughout her time in Congress. Time and again, both as a Member of Congress and as Leader, she has fought to protect these programs.

Leader Pelosi’s record is clear. She has been a tireless advocate in our fight to protect Social Security and Medicare from Republican attempts to dismantle them. Her leadership was crucial in defeating President George W. Bush’s efforts to privatize Social Security. And, no one is working harder to ensure that Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives so we can protect the long term viability of these programs.

Let’s remember that we are on the same team. We need to focus our efforts on the true targets, which are the 228 House Republicans who voted to end the Medicare guarantee, reduce benefits and increase costs for seniors.

Committed progressives should unite to protect these initiatives from Republican attacks. We will be more effective champions of the middle-class, and those who aspire to it, if we collaborate on a strategy to challenge Republicans on their attacks on working families. We hope to work with you and a broad progressive coalition in the months ahead to preserve Social Security and Medicare.

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