Until today, Tim Pawlenty’s been an expert at weaving between the political liabilities that come with supporting Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to end Medicare (see: Corwin, Jane L.) and the liabilities that come with opposing it (see: Gingrich, Newton L.).
After weeks of praising Ryan personally and the general specifics of his plan — while also in recent days promising to offer up his own completely different plan to fix Medicare sometime in the future — Pawlenty has chosen a side. If he had anything to say about it, Ryan’s plan to eliminate medicare and replace it with a voucher system would be the law of the land.The end of Pawlenty’s fence-sitting came in a tweet from the Washington Post‘s Amy Gardner. Politico‘s Ben Smith then posted this quote from Pawlenty taken from a campaign stop in New Hampshire:
“If I can’t have my own plan — as president, I’ll have my own plan [but] if I can’t have that, and the bill came to my desk and I had to choose between signing or not Congressman Ryan’s plan, of course I would sign it.”
Pawlenty will still bring out his own plan — one that likely won’t eliminate all of Medicare and replace it with a voucher as Ryan’s plan does. But now he’s on record saying he’d sign a law that voters seem to hate.
Yesterday, Pawlenty danced around the question at a Cato event in DC.
“Twice Pawlenty refused to answer a reporter’s question of whether he would sign or veto Ryan’s budget if it was presented to him as president,” CNN reported.
Critics are already jumping on Pawlenty in the wake of Gardner’s tweet.
“Despite a few throw-away caveats Tim Pawlenty just said that he would agree to sign a plan that would end Medicare by turning it into a privatized voucher system,” said Eddie Vale, a spokesperson for Protect Your Care, a group which defends President Obama’s health care law from attack. “It is unconscionable to throw seniors into the private market, while doubling their out of pocket costs, and putting seniors back into the prescription drug loophole.”
DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she found the timing of Pawlenty’s statement surprising.
“Just two days after the people of New York’s solidly Republican 26th Congressional District roundly rejected the Republican plan for ending Medicare, Governor Pawlenty said that he would sign such a plan into law – a plan even Newt Gingrich called ‘radical,'” she said in a statement. “Governor Pawlenty may have passed his party’s primary litmus test by voicing his approval of a plan to end Medicare – but he has failed a critical leadership test.”