Democrats are riding high on their victory in Tuesday’s special election in NY-26 — a Republican district that turned blue largely because the GOP has now aligned itself with a plan to phase out Medicare and replace it with subsidized private insurance. And Democrats won’t let voters forget it.
In an implicit admission that they’re now heavily vulnerable on this issue, Republicans — particularly Senate Republicans — are threatening to revisit their attack on Democrats for cutting Medicare as part of the health care law that passed last year. Underlying that threat is another one: if Democrats and Republicans reach a deal on the debt limit that involves further Medicare cuts then it’s likely that for every Republican who supports privatizing Medicare, there will be a Democrat who voted at least once to cut Medicare.
In a Capitol press conference Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took on the major differences between cutting and basically eliminating.“[W]e felt it was the right thing to do when we did our health care bill to do something to strengthen Medicare — one way we did it was to get rid of 500 billion wasteful dollars,” Reid said. “What we’re talking about doing is not changing Medicare as we know it [by] doing a voucher system.”
Reid demurred on the question of whether the bipartisan debt talks, led by Vice President Joe Biden, will recommend Medicare cuts, except to suggest that Democrats wouldn’t be on board with fundamentally reshaping the program.
“You must know a lot more about Medicare and the Biden plan than I do because at this stage we haven’t touched Medicare,” Reid said. “I don’t know what’s going on in those talks, I don’t think you do either.”