Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he welcomed a fight with Republicans over their attempts to privatize Medicare and signaled Democrats’ plans to make it a major issue in confirmation hearings for Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of health and human services.
“Between this nomination, an avowed Medicare opponent, and Republicans here in Washington threatening to privatize Medicare, it’s clear that Washington Republicans are plotting a war on seniors next year,” Schumer said at a press conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill. “Every senior in America should hear this loudly and clearly: Democrats will not let them win that fight.”
In the past Price has supported plans to privatize Medicare, or, in Republican terms, convert it to a “premium support” system. He also said earlier this month that he wanted to see GOP lawmakers overhaul Medicare through the 2018 budget reconciliation process in the next six to eight months.
Schumer said Tuesday that Democrats would stand united against any attempts to “privatize, voucherize or any other -ize you can think of when it comes to Medicare.”
“So to Republicans considering going down this path, my advice to you is simple: turn back,” he said.
The New York Democrat said that he had urged his caucus to engage in “thorough, thorough vetting,” and ask “very, very careful and strong questions” during Price’s confirmation process.
“And my guess is that the American people will urge Democrats and Republicans not to put in a nominee who has these views. Now maybe he’ll change his views. Maybe he’ll modify his views,” Schumer said. “But he is going to get a lot of very strong and very thorough questions about the kinds things that he will propose.”
Due to changes to the filibuster rules Democrats had made when they were in control of the Senate, Republicans only need a simple majority vote to confirm Price to the post. Schumer expressed some measured optimism that the issue of Medicare could bring enough Republicans over to the Democrats’ side and block the nomination.
“I think there’s a chance that his nomination will fail,” Schumer said. “This is the kind of issue where Democrats have been completely united against privatizing Medicare, and a lot of Republicans have been dancing on the head of a pin.”