Speaker Boehner Stands Behind GOP’s Medicare Overhaul: “A Plan That Frankly We Believe In”

By John R Parkinson

May 26, 2011 1:40pm

ABC News’ John R. Parkinson (@JRPabcDC) reports: 

House Speaker John Boehner reacted to Tuesday’s stunning political upset in New York-26’s special election, admitting that the hullabaloo surrounding the Republicans’ plan to transform Medicare played a “small part” in the results, but he reiterated his support for the plan telling reporters that for the GOP, it’s “a plan that frankly we believe in.” 

“Democrats have no plan, which is going to lead to bankruptcy and cuts in seniors’ benefits. It’s about time that they are honest with the American people,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “We have outlined a plan that frankly we believe in.” 

Boehner placed most of the blame of the loss on a third-party candidate, Democrat-turned-Tea Party candidate Jack Davis, who pumped nearly $3 million into his campaign while winning about nine percent of the vote — paving the way for Democrat Kathy Hochul to defeat Republican Jane Corwin 47-41 in a traditionally ruby-red district

“Special elections are just that: they’re special, and when you look at what happened in this election, you have a third party candidate that spent nearly $3 million attacking the Republican candidate, and I could be somewhat critical of how the campaign was run, but the fact is we didn’t win,” Boehner said. “The small part of the reason we didn’t win clearly had to do with Medicare.” 

The divisive plan, known as “The Path to Prosperity,” was passed by House Republicans April 15 and would eventually replace the current system with one where seniors would buy government-subsidized private insurance. 

Wednesday, the Senate voted to defeat the House Republican budget, 40-57. Five Senate Republicans joined the unanimous Senate Democratic caucus in opposing the bill. Senators also held a vote on President Obama’s FY2012 budget submission from February, unanimously defeating the proposal 0-97. 

Boehner defended the “Path” today, arguing that it is the only plan that lawmakers in either chamber of Congress have put forward to address the looming entitlement crisis, while the Democrats’ current plan is to do nothing. 

“The only plan out there to preserve and protect Medicare for current and future retirees is the plan that we put forward,” Boehner said. “The only people in Washington, DC who have voted to cut Medicare have been the Democrats when they cut $500 billion out of Medicare during Obamacare. The third fact: the Democrats’ plan is to do nothing, and the trustees at Medicare have made clear that doing nothing means that the Medicare plan will go bankrupt and seniors’ benefits will be cut.” 

Boehner and House Republicans were on hand to unveil their jobs growth agenda today – a series of policy initiatives Boehner says are “focused on creating lasting economic growth and job creation” and designed “to foster innovation and investment, tackle our debt, and help business owners create jobs without raising taxes on working families and small businesses.” 

The growth agenda, dubbed “The Plan for America’s Job Creators,” calls for reducing regulatory burdens, amending the tax code, increasing competitiveness for manufacturers, encouraging entrepreneurship and growth, and maximizing domestic energy production — all while paying down America’s debt.

“We'll never balance our budget and rid our children of debt until we cut spending and have real economic growth.  That's why both House and Senate Republicans are focused on creating a better environment for private sector job creation.  Helping Americans get back to work is our number-one priority.  We're going to do everything we can to help create jobs and to boost our economy,” Boehner said. “It'll remove government obstacles to private sector growth, the kind of real economic growth that the Obama stimulus proposed but failed to deliver.”

Just before the Republican news conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi held her own session with the Capitol Hill press corps, telling reporters that the Republicans’ jobs agenda was “warmed-over stew” – failed initiatives from the Bush administration that led to the economic catastrophe in 2007. 

“These are the same policies from the Bush administration that did not create jobs, that increased the deficit, did not strengthen the middle class, and they’ll come back with this same thing,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “They are trying to undo what we have put into law to job creation, and to come back with the ‘same old-same old,’ which were the policies of the Bush administration, which got us in the fix we are now, with high unemployment, deep deficits, and an economy that has a long way to come back from the Bush recession that these policies got us into in the first place.” 

Boehner, however, rejected Pelosi’s criticisms, telling reporters that “just because we’ve proposed it in the past does not mean it was not a good idea.” 

“We’ve had a lot of good ideas,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “We’re trying to package this in a way where the American people understand what it’s going to take in terms of changing policies here that will create jobs in America, and I think the package that we have represents a lot of traditional ideas and new ideas about how to let the private sector create jobs.” 

On the Vice President Biden deficit reduction negotiations – which are set to resume on Capitol Hill this afternoon, Boehner was asked if the $1 trillion increase to the debt ceiling floated by Biden earlier this week was a good target for negotiators to work towards. 

Boehner said that the talks have been fruitful and he hopes they will continue, but the Republican position is unwavering that spending cuts should exceed any increase to the debt ceiling.

“I hope they continue, but I think I made our position very clear in my speech in New York when I said that the spending cuts should exceed the amount of an increase in the debt limit,” Boehner said. “And when I said exceed, I meant exceed.”

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