Dem: GOP Medicare plan throws young to wolves

DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) on CBS' "Face the Nation," May 29, 2011.

Newly-elected DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) said Sunday that the recent Democratic victory in a special election in a conservative upstate New York district was evidence that voters across the country disapproved of the Republican proposal for Medicare which, she argued, would end the program "as we know it."

In an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," Wasserman-Schultz said that the GOP plan, outlined in Wis. Rep. Paul Ryan's proposed 2012 budget, would unfairly target young Americans.

"[Republicans] would take the people who are younger than 55 years old today and tell them, 'You know what? You're on your own. Go and find private health insurance in the health care insurance market. We're going to throw you to the wolves, and allow insurance companies to deny you coverage and drop you for pre-existing conditions,' " Wasserman-Schultz told CBS' Harry Smith. " 'We're going to give you X amount of dollars and you figure it out.'

"These are people who have paid for their whole life into the system," she added.

Referencing Democrat Kathy Hochul's victory last week in a special election in House district NY-26, a district previously considered a GOP stronghold, the DNC leader said voters were clearly rejecting the Ryan Medicare plan.

"Americans sent a very strong message - not just in New York this week, but in Jacksonville, Fla., last week, when they elected a Democratic mayor for the first time in 20 years; in a state House race in New Hampshire - same issue," Wasserman-Schultz said. "Americans support Medicare and the structure that we have for Medicare.

"American voters are making it clear that they have seen a preview of what the Republicans would do to Medicare, do to the direction that this country would go," she continued. "They want us to sit down together and work on some long-term reforms - which is what the Republicans and Democrats are doing with Vice President Biden right now. That's the direction we need to go."

Earlier in the program, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor accused Democrats of engaging in "demagoguery" and "scare tactics" on the issue of Medicare.

Noting that while he thought the controversial Medicare proposal "undeniably ... played some role in the [New York] election," Cantor attributed the loss to Democrats "demagoguing" the issue in a way that was "not factual."

"Any time you have one side demagoguing and frankly accusing the other side in a way that's not factual of trying to reform the program, certainly that's going to influence an electorate," he said. "But listen, as far as Medicare is concerned, you know, there's a simple choice here: Either we're going to save the program or you let it go bankrupt."

Wasserman-Schultz countered that demagoguery was an issue with which Republicans were familiar.

"Coming from the Majority Leader, who was part of the architect of the 2010 elections focusing on scaring seniors about what Democrats were doing with Medicare, he would know," she told Smith.

She said what Democrats are trying to do right now is try to "prevent the Republicans from ending Medicare as we know it. That's what Kathy Hochul ran on leading up to her victory this Tuesday in NY-26."

She added that a continued backlash to the Republican proposal could lead to a Democratic comeback in the 2012 election.

"If Republican candidates cling - as my Republican colleagues in the House have - to the Ryan plan to end Medicare; to focusing on tax cuts for the wealthiest, and insisting on that; and balancing all the pain that they're imposing on middle-class and working families, then I think that Democratic candidates for Congress and President Obama and other Democrats up and down the ballot are going to find some success," she said.