In Debt Ceiling Negotiations, Democrats Insist Paul Ryan’s Medicare Reform Plan to be ‘Off the Table’

Jun 6, 2011 11:12am

ABC News' Sunlen Miller (@sunlenmiller) reports:

In a letter to Vice President Biden today, five Democratic senators are calling for the Paul Ryan Medicare reform plan to “remain off the table,” as the budget and deficit negotiations over raising the debt ceiling go forward.

“We encourage you to remain unwavering in opposition to this scheme. For the good of the nation’s seniors, it must remain off the table,” the Democratic Senators write, “ we will never allow any effort to dismantle the program and force benefit cuts upon seniors under the guise of deficit reduction.”

The letter has been signed by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

On Thursday Vice President Biden will hold the fifth round of debt talks – this time on the Hill, rather than in the Blair House.

The administration has come out against the Medicare reforms in the GOP’s plan – authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, but the Senators today are insisting that this is a non starter, and stress to the Vice President that they must not be a point of negotiation during the continuing debt ceiling talks.

Republicans have said though that Medicare is very much part of the debt ceiling talks.

Last week House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told ABC’s Jonathan Karl  that cuts to seniors' benefits are "absolutely" off the table in the ongoing deficit reduction negotiations but suggested that Congress could improve Medicare by working to eliminate fraud and also by giving the Secretary of Health and Human Services unilateral authority to negotiate for lower prices for the endangered entitlement program.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that the Medicare reform plan authored by Ryan would be “on the table” in negotiations.

"We are going to discuss what ought to be done," McConnell said during an appearance on Meet The Press May 29th, "I can assure you that to get my vote to raise the debt ceiling, for whatever that is worth… Medicare will be a part of it."

In the letter to Biden today the Democratic Senators note that as his working group moves “beyond areas of consensus and into parts of the budget that will require tough choices,” that they will oppose any GOP efforts to insert their plan to dismantle Medicare into a deficit reduction package.

“We wish to identify in advance one proposal that we cannot support in any form — the House-passed plan to dismantle Medicare,” the Senators write. “This proposal would never pass Congress on its own, and it does not belong in a larger deal either. It would be devastating for America’s seniors, who would see their out-of-pocket costs for health care double and the benefits they currently enjoy jeopardized.  Under this risky proposal, insurance company bureaucrats would decide what care seniors get.”

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