It looks like Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) may be one of the weak links in the House Republican caucus’s plan to phase out Medicare and replace it with vouchers for seniors to buy private insurance. West Virginia’s Dave McKinley is a question mark too. But Rehberg shouldn’t surprise us. He was one of the weak links and early jumpers when President Bush tried to phase out Social Security in 2005 too.
Now he’s saying that “there are still too many unanswered questions with regard to Medicare reform, and I simply won’t support any plan until I know for a fact that Montana’s seniors will be protected.”
In other words, he’s still keeping his options open. And he voted against the Ryan budget resolution, likely because he wanted to keep clear of taking a stand on Medicare in advance of his race for Senate next year against Sen. Jon Tester (D).
So far though, he’s keeping his options open. But we should expect he’ll get pressed hard to take a stand one way or another as part of what’s sure to be a extremely hard fought election next year.
In a different category is Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV). He’s running next year for the seat vacated by Sen. John Ensign, running against Rep. Shelley Berkley (D). He voted for the Ryan resolution and has openly embraced the part that phases out Medicare. So he’s committed, on the record.
Watching these two races and other similarly situated ones will be a key tell to seeing how this question plays out in 2012.
Drop me a line if you see other races where candidates have taken clear stands one way or another or are keeping mum.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.