In a not-all-that-surprising move, Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.) has announced that he will vote against the Paul Ryan/House Republican budget. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) is likely to hold a vote on the plan sometime this week.
Brown had given mixed signals as to how he’d vote, but clarified his position Monday in an op-ed for Politico. The senator offers some light praise for the Ryan’s plan for having “at least finally jumpstarted the debate” on Medicare reform, but while Ryan recommends transitioning the program to a “premium support” model, Brown says lawmakers should “work inside” the current Medicare framework to make it more solvent:
While I applaud Ryan for getting the conversation started, I cannot support his specific plan — and therefore will vote “no” on his budget.
Why can’t I go along with the Ryan Medicare plan?
First, I fear that as health inflation rises, the cost of private plans will outgrow the government premium support— and the elderly will be forced to pay ever higher deductibles and co-pays. Protecting those who have been counting on the current system their entire adult lives should be the key principle of reform.
Second, Medicare has already taken significant cuts to help pay for Obama’s health care plan. The president and Congress cut a half trillion dollars to the private side of Medicare — meaning seniors are at risk of losing their Medicare Advantage coverage.
Another key principle is that seniors should not have to bear a disproportionate burden. But that doesn’t mean we do nothing. If Medicare is to survive for current beneficiaries and future generations, we must act. The sooner Congress addresses this, the less painful it is likely to be — but more difficult adjustments will be required if we delay.
We should start by making improvements to the traditional Medicare plan.
Brown doesn’t offer much in the way of an alternative, hauling out the well-worn “waste, fraud [and] abuse” motif, predicting greater savings through “increasing congressional oversight,” calling for tort reform, and stressing the need to “get started now.”
Brown joins Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) in opposition to the Ryan plan. Collins announced back in April that she would vote against it.
UPDATE: Jennifer Rubin wonders if Brown even bothered to read the Ryan plan.