Obama Volunteers Threaten to Pull Support if Medicare Changes in Deficit Deal

Jul 15, 2011 2:27pm

ABC News' Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) reports:  A group of liberal Democrats, who fundraised and volunteered for Barack Obama in 2008, protested possible cuts to entitlement program benefits, delivering 200,000 signed petitions outside Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago.

“Today for the first time, President Obama made clear that he’s considering benefit cuts — even for Americans that currently depend on Medicaid and Medicare. Even Paul Ryan didn’t say that much publicly,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal PAC which organized the demonstration

“President Obama needs to support the overwhelming will of the American people,” he said. “Our position is the position of the overwhelming majority of Americans: It’s time to raise taxes on the rich.”  

Green led a small contingent of Social Security and Medicare recipients – all of whom volunteered and donated to Obama 2008 – to Obama headquarters near Millennium Park, where they were greeted by Ann Marie Habershaw, the campaign’s chief operating officer. 

Diane Piron-Gelman, one of the activists who participated, said the encounter with Habershaw was polite but brief. “She was very, very studiedly neutral,” she said. “She wasn’t going to give us any sort of reaction. She wasn’t openly rude, but there was nothing. Not so much as a smile.”

Donna Conroy, another volunteer, described Habershaw’s unwillingness to engage in conversation with the group as “cold and perfunctory.”

But Green said the fact that the COO of Obama’s presidential campaign personally accepted the pledges shows “that they take this campaign seriously.”

“Our hope is that it turns into results,” he said. 

An Obama campaign official said in response to the PCCC petitions that the president's effort to achieve a "balanced approach" to reducing the deficit would ultimately protect the middle class and seniors. 

"Americans elected the President in 2008 to take on the big challenges facing our country," the official said, "that’s why he has put forward a framework to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid in the long run, and he supports finding bipartisan solutions to strengthen Social Security for future generations."

"This contrasts with the plan the Republican candidates have embraced that extends tax cuts for the richest Americans and provides special deals for corporate jet owners and oil and gas companies, funded at the expense of the middle class and by ending Medicare as we know it."

President Obama in 2008 encouraged his grassroots supporters to “hold me and other elected officials more accountable for their actions."

Signatories to the PCCC pledge, who claim to have donated more than $17 million and 2.6 million volunteer hours in 2008, are threatening to close their wallets and stay home in 2012 if Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits are reduced in a deficit deal with Republicans.

“Don't ask for a penny of my money or an hour of my time in 2012,” if there are cuts, the pledge reads.  “I'm going to focus on electing bold progressive candidates who will fight to protect our Democratic legacy." 

President Obama indicated today that he would be open to means-testing Medicare –- requiring wealthier seniors to pay more — as part of a compromise plan to reduce the deficit.

But he said that any changes to the program should "make sure that current beneficiaries, as much as possible, are not affected, but we should look at what can we do in the out years so that, over time, some of these programs are more sustainable.”

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