The GOP is so proud of the Paul Ryan budget and wants such a grand discussion about it that they scheduled a House markup within a couple days and a full vote in the House this week. In other words, they want to fast-track the budget resolution, get it done so they can use it as a lever to pull the conversation to the right in the upcoming debate.
The only problem with that is that a substantial number of House Republicans are uneasy about passing the bill, particularly because it privatizes Medicare and cuts Medicaid. They’ll all vote for it, of course, but it doesn’t mean they have to be thrilled about it.
Whether they’re new lawmakers in formerly Democratic seats or House veterans who represent districts with large elderly populations dependent on Medicare, a significant number of Republicans realize that embracing the Ryan plan may be one of the most treacherous votes of the year.
Rep. Tim Murphy, a fifth-term Republican who represents a western Pennsylvania district south of Pittsburgh with roughly 17 percent of residents older than 65, is still undecided. Susan Mosychuk, Murphy’s chief of staff, said it’s a “high-profile vote” that they are “still taking a look at.”
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Republican from western Florida with a district in which roughly 20 percent of its residents are older than 65, is “still looking it over and trying to decide.” [...]
Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), one of the most high-profile freshmen, said he’s undecided. Rep. Steve Southerland, a Republican who took Democrat Allen Boyd’s northern Florida seat, is in the same place as Bilirakis. So is Ohio freshman Rep. Jim Renacci.
My mother-in-law lives in Murphy’s district. Republicans in Pennsylvania and Florida are going to have a tough time with this budget. It’s simply a fact that it shifts public debt onto private debt, by burdening seniors with the rising cost of health care and providing nothing to lower that cost. Seniors would pay twice as much under Medicare with the Ryan budget.
What’s more, this looks like the kind of mistake that Democrats did when they pushed through the cap and trade bill in summer 2009, when it didn’t have a chance of becoming law due to the Senate. The same thing applies here: Republicans will take a tough vote that won’t end up becoming law. It will simply go into the election ads of their 2012 opponents. Democrats have already gotten these ads ready.
A fund-raising e-mail sent Monday by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee warned recipients that the Ryan budget would “end Medicare as we know it and force seniors to clip coupons if they need to see a doctor.” It added, “Meanwhile, the wealthy would receive another tax cut.”
Other Republicans are putting on a brave face, saying that the conversation around spending has changed and isn’t so politically fraught. This of course depends on the quality of the opposition and whether they will get a clean shot at them. A lot depends on that speech in just over an hour.