COLUMBUS, Ohio – Mitt Romney on Wednesday unequivocally disavowed more than $700 billion in Medicare spending cuts proposed by his new running mate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.
In an interview on “CBS This Morning,” Romney was asked how he squared his running mate’s plan to cut spending on the popular healthcare program for the elderly with his criticism of President Obama for making the same reductions.
“First of all, Congressman Ryan has joined my campaign, and his campaign is my campaign now, and we’re on exactly the same page,” Romney said in response to anchor Anthony Mason’s question. “And my campaign has made it very clear: The president’s cuts of $716 billion to Medicare – those cuts are to be restored if I become president and Paul Ryan becomes vice president.”
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The exchange underscored the political challenge that Romney faces in explaining his standing on Medicare after putting Ryan on the Republican ticket.
President Obama and other Democrats have accused Ryan of trying to “end Medicare as we know it” by proposing a system of vouchers for future seniors to buy health insurance in the private market as an alternative to the program as it now stands. Democrats say the elderly would wind up paying more for less.
Ryan’s plan to revamp Medicare – which included Obama’s $716 billion in cuts to the projected growth of Medicare – was a central feature of a federal budget proposed by the congressman and passed by the Republican-controlled House in April. Romney has said he would sign it as president. The voucher system would begin in 10 years.
In his 59-point economic plan, Romney praised Ryan’s Medicare plan, saying it “makes important strides in the right direction by keeping the system solvent and introducing market-based dynamics.” Romney’s economic plan says the Republican presidential candidate would share Ryan’s objectives on Medicare, but that his own revamping of the program would differ in unspecified ways.
The Ryan Medicare plan has posed a political challenge to House Republicans who are battling Democratic attacks in closely fought races in November. Now that Ryan is on the Republican ticket, it also poses a serious threat to Romney in Florida and other battleground states with large elderly populations.
In an effort to seize the offensive, Romney has started running a television ad slamming Obama for the $716 billion in Medicare spending cuts without mentioning that his running mate proposed the same reductions or that voiding them would blow a giant hole in Republican plans to reduce the deficit.
The Obama cuts, which are aimed at financing some of the president’s healthcare program, reduce reimbursements for hospitals and other care providers, but do not directly affect coverage of care for the elderly.
On Tuesday, Ryan, too, was asked to explain why he and Romney were criticizing Obama for Medicare reductions embraced by Ryan.
“We are the ones who are not raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare,” Ryan told Fox News anchor Brit Hume.
Ryan appeared to take stands on both sides of the Medicare reductions. While supporting the cuts in his own budget plan, Ryan said he voted against those cuts in the president’s healthcare overhaul.
“I voted repeatedly in Congress to repeal all of Obamacare, including this cut of $716 billion to pay for Obamacare,” Ryan said.
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