After some initial confusion, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is making it clear that his plan for Medicare is “the same if not identical” to a proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) that Democrats say would end the program as it exists today.
After Romney announced on Saturday that he had selected Ryan as the vice presidential nominee, a campaign memo sought to distance the presidential candidate’s plan from Ryan’s budget proposal, insisting that “as president he will be putting together his own plan.”
But in an interview with Wisconsin’s WBAY on Wednesday, Romney said he fully embraced the voucher idea in Ryan’s plan.
“Actually, Paul Ryan and my plan for Medicare, I think, is the same if not identical–it’s probably close to identical,” Romney told WBAY’s Matt Smith. “The only change I’d mention for 55 or older is we’d restore the $817 billion President Obama took out of the Medicare trust fund.”
“And you’re referring to that $716 billion estimate?” Smith asked, seeking to clarify Romney’s figure on the Medicare savings President Barack Obama signed into law.
“The $716 billion is what the president takes out of the Medicare trust fund to help pay for Obamacare,” the candidate explained. “I think seniors will be outraged to learn money they put into medicare is going to be siphoned off.”
“Critics, though, will say while you say you’re on the same page as Congressman Ryan, you are providing no examples of the differences,” Smith pointed out.
“Well, I’m not sure what critics you’re referring to, but what I can tell you is Paul Ryan in joining my presidential team is on board with my policy,” Romney insisted. “The place there’s a big difference is between myself and Paul Ryan and the president. The president has a very different plan. By the way, of course, individuals are going to have some differences even among those in the same party but nothing compares with the difference we have with President Obama.”
While Romney sought on Wednesday to highlight the similarities between his plan and Ryan’s, the chairman of his national steering committee had lashed out at a CNN host on Tuesday for noting that the proposals were virtually the same.
“It’s sounds awfully like the Paul Ryan Medicare plan,” CNN host Soledad O’Brien told former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R) after reading details from Romney’s website.
“But it’s very different,” Sununu insisted. “For example when Obama gutted Medicare by taking $717 billion out of it, the Romney plan does not do that. The Ryan plan mimicked part of the Obama package, the Romney plan does not. That’s a big difference.”
“I understand that this is a Republican talking point because I’ve heard it repeated over and over again,” O’Brien observed. “These numbers have been debunked, as you know, by the Congressional Budget Office. … I can tell you what it says. [Obama's plan] cuts a reduction in the expect rate of growth, which you know, not cutting budgets to the elderly. Benefits will be improved.”
“Soledad, stop this!” Sununu shouted. “All you’re doing is mimicking the stuff that comes out of the White House and gets repeated on the Democratic blog boards out there. … Put an Obama bumper sticker on your forehead when you do this!”
“You know, let me tell you something,” O’Brien said. “There is independent analysis that details what this is about. … And name calling to me and somehow by you repeating a number of $716 billion, that you can make that stick when [you say] that figure is being ‘stolen’ from Medicare, that’s not true. You can’t just repeat it and make it true, sir.”
Watch this video from WBAY, broadcast Aug. 15, 2012.