Senators Weigh in on Ryan-Wyden

by Betsy Woodruff

While some in the media have been trying the Ryan-Wyden bipartisan medicare proposal as a capitulation on the part of both parties, that’s not how lawmakers on Capitol Hill see it. In fact, GOP Senators were generally supportive of the effort, while Democrats seemed rather begrudged.

“I think it holds a lot of promise, I really do,” said freshman Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), adding that he had spoken with Paul Ryan about the plan earlier in the day. “I think there’s a potential to get Republicans and Democrats together on something that actually addresses the key spending problem.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) was similarly optimistic about the proposal, though he said he has not studied it extensively. He said he believes the timing of the plan’s release will work in Ryan’s favor.“To the extent to which Ryan is laying out good ideas a year or so early, it gives the American people and Congress opportunities to begin to think about those ideas,” he said. “No one could say it was just brought up at the last minute, but it’s been out there and people have talked about it, and maybe the next year, post-election, there would be possibilities for reform because we’ve got to have it. We cannot come close to balancing the budget without dealing with the major entitlements.”

Democrats like Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), however, felt differently. “I think it’s the same warmed-over privatization of Medicare,” he said. “[Ryan] found a Democratic sponsor, good for him, but it still — this whole idea of privatization, privatizing the turnpikes in Ohio, privatizing Social Security, privatizing the prison system, privatizing the postal service — one of two things happen. Either they shift costs so private companies can make money on this, because they’re not more efficient — private insurance is not more efficient than Medicare, private pensions aren’t more efficient than Social Security — so they either shift costs to the beneficiaries or they cut benefits and wages to workers. I mean, that’s what privatization always is, bar none, and it’s a bad idea.”

Brown said he thinks the plan will be dead on arrival in Congress.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.) told National Review Online that he is not very familiar with the new plan, but doesn’t think he will end up supporting it. “I didn’t support his earlier one, I don’t believe I support this one,” he said.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) was similarly hesitant about the plan. “I always worry about a voucher program, a premium support program, because I worry about the cost being shifted to the beneficiaries and not really bringing down costs,” he told NRO. “I know they have a medical inflation rate on their premium support, but I would like to see how that works.”

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