RNC Chairman Michael Steele Jabs Dems on Medicare, But Hasn't Always Been Against Cuts

Michael Steele jabbed Dems on Medicare, but in 2006, he was open to cost cuts.

ByABC News
August 24, 2009, 6:52 AM

Aug. 24, 2009— -- 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."