WASHINGTON, April 30, 2011 — -- What a difference a couple of months makes. Across the country this week Americans have been attending town hall meetings to voice their dissatisfaction over the proposed Republican budget.
The outpouring of frustration is reminiscent of last year's movement against the Democrats' health care plan and what critics then called excessive government spending, but this time Republicans are bearing the brunt of the popular anger.
According to Democrats, the budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will turn Medicare into a voucher program limiting healthcare for seniors.
At a town hall meeting earlier this week, Ryan was met by protesters waiting outside the building for him to arrive, and inside he got a chilly reception from his constituents.
"Mr. Ryan wants to cut spending and cut money on the backs of the middle class workers, and reward that money to the top 2 percent," one woman in the audience said. Her comment was followed by chanting from crowd, "Tax the rich too."
Ryan had to ask one man to leave a town hall meeting Friday night, for loudly criticizing him.
"The Medicare plan will end Medicare as we know it. Republicans will tell us it preserves Medicare, that it protects Medicare. It does not," said an attendee of Rep. Frank Guinta's town hall Thursday night in New Hampshire.
"First, the plan that Paul Ryan put together, that was passed in the House, actually does not affect anyone that is over 55 years of age," Guinta said, in an attempt to put his constituents' minds at ease.
But the room erupted with shouts from the crowds asking, "What about our kids!?" and "Just tell the truth."
To which Guinta responded, "I'd like to have a very thoughtful discussion."
In Pennsylvania, Rep. Lou Barletta had a similar reception. A concerned member of the audience at the town hall offered his guess at where the Ryan budget would leave senior citizens: "People won't cover seniors for the lousy $15,000 offered in this plan."
Another man pointed out that in 2010 Barletta campaigned on changing Medicare. The man continued, "Now you voted for a plan that will destroy Medicare."
It is a dramatic shift from the last time Republicans went home during a recess. Last year they heard from tea party members and others who encouraged them to cut spending. Despite the massive shift in tone, and efforts from liberal groups to point out the acrimony, many Republicans dismiss the suggestion that they were pummeled at home.
"Congressman, why did you vote for a budget to privatize Medicare, cut VA benefits, then turned around and gave away tax cuts," asked a man at Rep. Dan Webster's town hall in Florida. Another man audience shot back at the man, "Because the country can't afford it. We can't afford it you moron!"
Webster tried to regain control of the meeting, announcing: "I appreciate the people coming out. Nothing wrong with the clash of ideas. It's a good thing."
Republican strategist Todd Harris does not believe the recent outcry against the Ryan budget is a setback for the GOP, "I think this recess has been a great success for the Republican Party because it's showing the American people that the Republican Party is committed to saving Medicare.
"It don't think it was a great recess for a Republicans," ABC News Political Director Amy Walter said, "They campaigned on cutting but now when they're coming home to talk about cutting they also have to defend how difficult this cut is. Especially when we're talking about Medicare. ... It may have given a gift to Democrats by putting Medicare in play."