In the start of a weeklong push on Medicare, Republicans are going on the offensive and taking on the Democrats' health care plan with a new "seniors' bill of rights," but Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele hasn't always believed that the program for seniors shouldn't be targeted for cost cuts.
"Our seniors have really come under fire in the last few weeks, as more and more proposals look to be cutting benefits out of Medicare programs," Steele said of the six-point proposal, which calls for the president to not cut Medicare benefits in his health care overhaul.
"We should protect the seniors' ability to access health care," Steele said on "Good Morning America" Monday.
But despite the new push, the GOP leader hasn't always believed that Medicare should be off limits when it comes to finding cost-savings.
In an October 2006 interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," then then-Senate candidate said that cuts to Medicare "absolutely" had to be "on the table" in order to "control runaway federal spending."
"Everything has to be on the table, my friend," Steele said at the time. "If you don't have enough money in any given month, what do you do? You've got to reprioritize. You've got to take care of the business at hand."
The RNC responded to the seeming discrepancy by arguing that reducing Medicare to shore up the program, as Steele was open to doing in 2006, is more responsible than cutting Medicare for the purpose of expanding health insurance to younger Americans, as Democrats are currently proposing.
Democrats have not proposed benefit cuts under Medicare, but they have proposed cuts to providers. The president has called Medicare and Medicaid "one of the greatest threats to our federal deficit," but has said that cutting costs won't mean cuts in benefits to seniors.
The Democratic National Committee called the RNC's proposal a tactic to scare seniors.
"What's really disturbing is this feigned interest in Medicare and the plight of seniors is coming from the Republican Party -- the very Party which opposed Social Security and only four years ago tried to dismantle it -- and the very Republican Party which opposed the creation of Medicare to begin with," DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse said in a statement. "Republicans are fighting against reform for one reason -- to 'break' President Obama and gain political advantage. When it comes to their arguments against reform -- for Republicans it's any port in a storm."
Republicans are specifically targeting seniors in their push to oppose health care overhaul proposals put forward by the White House and Congressional Democrats. Seniors have turned up in town halls held by lawmakers to oppose what they believe might be more government intervention.
The DNC accused the GOP of whipping "many Americans into a frenzy at town hall meetings... by spreading one lie about reform after another."
The RNC's "seniors' bill of rights" calls for protecting Medicare and "not cut it in the name of health care reform," prohibiting a government-run insurance option, not limiting health decisions based on a person's age, keeping government out of end-of-life care discussions, ensuring that seniors can keep their coverage, and preserving programs for veterans and military families.