Details Trickling In

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A number of TPM Readers have written in having called their Reps and Senators about Paul Ryan’s Medicare Phaseout Plan. Not surprisingly, most readers are hearing that the people on the phone say they don’t know anything about it, that the Rep or Senator doesn’t have a position, or that they refuse to disclose what their position is.

So for instance Rep. Steve Womack’s (R-AR) office told TPM Reader MC they didn’t know anything about it. Representatives of Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) were both evasive and refused to state a position. Democrats, it seems, were in many cases overwhelmed by calls about Steve Bannon. They could barely find a moment to answer calls about anything else.

One notable fact about the Democrats’ unpreparedness though comes from TPM Reader SD in New Mexico. She spoke to her Democratic Rep and Senators. They seemed taken aback by the whole idea and assured her there was no way that could even happen. As she said in her email, “I mentioned that the phrase “this will never happen” no longer has the credibility it once had.” It’s understandable that Democrats aren’t ready for this. Very few people expected to be where we are this week. But Paul Ryan has been pushing this for several years. So maybe miss a beat for a day or two. But it’s time to get with it. This isn’t a new idea. Ryan’s been saying for years he would do this with a Republican President. Life comes at you fast.

There are also the beginnings of some press attention. The San Francisco Chronicle notes that Ryan may be only months away from phasing out Medicare. Michael Hiltzik also has a very good discussion of the policy details at The Los Angeles Times.

My long experience with this is that members of Congress will try as hard as they possibly can not to state a position. It keeps their options open. There’s safety in numbers. But that’s how deeply unpopular laws get passed. People can’t figure out who is doing what. A bill passes. And then it’s too late. Real reporting on an issue like this means finding out where people actually stand. They will only say so if there’s political pressure.

Late Update:

Sens Flake (R) and McCain (R): no position on Ryan’s Medicare phaseout plan.

Sen Cruz (R-TX): no position but will release one soon.

Sen. Capito (R-WV): this is an example of how members of Congress usually try to overwhelm people with vagaries and pablum. This is part of the email TPM Reader RP just received: “Many different plans have been suggested for strengthening and preserving Social Security and Medicare both for current seniors and for future retirees. Like you, I have a great interest in the long-term financial integrity of these programs, and I do not want to see the best interests of West Virginia’s seniors forgotten as Congress addresses our country’s long-term financial challenges. I believe that we must put forth bipartisan ideas to protect these vital programs and make them fiscally viable for current and future beneficiaries. Be assured, I will continue to work with my colleagues to preserve and protect Social Security and Medicare to ensure they exist for you and all our children and grandchildren. As Congress considers future legislation, I will keep your views in mind and will work to preserve and strengthen Medicare and Social Security for current seniors and for future generations.” In other words, blah, blah, blah.

From Pennsylvania: “Just called Rep. Doyle (D-PA14) and they’re strongly anti-privatization, unsurprisingly. Had a script ready about the efforts he’s made to strengthen Medicare/Medicaid over the years. Didn’t sound surprised by the question. She actually suggested I call Pat Toomey’s office, which is pretty great. So I did. Sen. Toomey (R-PA)’s Pittsburgh office was closed for “maintenance” today, so they routed me to a different office (Erie) with no answer at 4:45pm.”

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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