Hill Democrats Vow To Win War Against Medicare Privatization in 2017

Susan Walsh

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) challenged President-elect Donald Trump in front of a room full of reporters and activists at the Capitol Thursday not to touch Medicare. After all, Sanders said, it's what Trump himself promised on the campaign trail.

"He said 'I am not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,'" Sanders said. "Mr. Trump, we are going to hold you accountable."

In the press conference, Democratic leaders gave a taste of how they plan to win the war against privatizing Medicare in 2017, a move that they say is even more likely now that Donald Trump has nominated Rep. Tom Price (R-GA)—a leading proponent of privatization—to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

“All signs suggest a fight is coming," incoming Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said.

In the House, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been a long-term proponent of privatization. He's included many versions of what he calls "premium support" in his budget proposals over the years and has said repeatedly that he would like to see changes to Medicare now that Republicans have the House, Senate and White House.

But Democrats also see their fight against Medicare as a way to mobilize seniors, a group that voted in large numbers for Republicans in the 2016 election.

In the Senate, Republicans have been cautious about a full endorsement of privatization. Many have tried to dodge questions or put it off, arguing that Medicare changes should be withheld until Obamacare is repealed and a suitable replacement strategy can be found.

But Democrats are not holding off on their attacks. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) argued that mobilization had to start immediately.

"The people have paid into the systems and they should get their money back," Pelosi said."Hands off Medicare."

Schumer argued that it didn't matter what Republican senators had said. He had a pretty good idea about where things were headed.

"The biggest statement so far on this issue is who President-elect Trump nominated and that is Representative Price who is the leading, leading proponent of privatization of Medicare so that's where it seems to be headed. If you look at Ryan's budget, he has talked about it and we haven't heard any notable Republican voices strongly saying they are going to fight it and join us in fighting it," Schumer said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Fox is a reporter at Talking Points Memo.
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