WASHINGTON -- As both Democrats and Republicans try to make the November election a choice over competing economic visions for the country, not all congressional Republicans are fans of the GOP budget approach as crafted by Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and embraced by the party’s presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Ten Republicans in the House voted against the blueprint earlier this year, including freshman Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), who is now trumpeting his opposition to the Medicare changes in mailers home to voters in his northern West Virginia district.
“Congressman McKinley recently voted against the 2012 budget passed by the House because of the plan’s negative impact on northern West Virginia seniors,” reads a flier from the congressman’s office. “The plan would privatize Medicare for future retirees, raise the retirement age…. The Congressional Budget Office determined the plan would nearly double out of pocket health care costs for future retirees.”
The congressman just completed 20 town hall meetings in his district -- where seniors make up a sizable slice of the electorate and don’t much like the Ryan plan or President Obama’s healthcare law.
“He is standing for what he believes in,” said McKinley spokesman Jim Forbes.
To be sure, plenty of Democrats have distanced themselves from Obama’s budget blueprint, as several Democrats are skittish about the Democrats’ main message – that taxes must be increased on wealthier Americans to help bring down deficits. Obama’s budget received virtually no support when it was brought for votes in the House and Senate.
But Democrats continue to believe that the Medicare changes proposed by the GOP are unpopular with voters, pointing to the Democrats’ special election victory in the GOP-leaning southern Arizona district once held by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, where Democrat Ron Barber defeated the tea party Republican, Jesse Kelly, after hammering the Medicare issue.
Under the GOP plan, the next generation of seniors would have the choice of enrolling in traditional Medicare or taking a stipend, called premium support, to purchase their own senior healthcare policy on the private market.
The nonpartisan CBO has said the premium support would raise seniors’ out-of-pocket costs. But Republicans argue the shift would stem the federal government’s rising costs for Medicare, particularly for the retiring baby boomers, that are a key factor driving the nation’s debt load.
Among the renegade Republicans, McKinley, for one, is explaining his opposition to the Medicare changes as he insists his work in Washington is protecting seniors.
“We must balance the budget,” McKinley said in another flier. “But not on their backs.”