WASHINGTON – Republicans came out strongly Tuesday in favor of a plan that cuts deep into Medicare and turns it over to the private market in ten years. They're the same Republicans who spent 2009 and 2010 hammering Democrats for "cutting Medicare" (although the cuts didn't affect benefits).
"We need to strengthen Medicare and preserve it for today's seniors and future generations, not slash it," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on the Senate floor in October 2009, arguing that Democrats were insistent on "cutting Medicare" in the sweeping health care law enacted last March.
"Cutting Medicare is not what Americans want," read a press release from McConnell in December 2009, during the final stretches of the health care debate. The release has been removed from his website.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), then the minority leader, said in September 2009 that the Democrats' "health care bill would cut seniors’ Medicare benefits by $500 billion."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), then the minority whip, wrote in a December 2009 op-ed, "The huge cuts in Medicare, massive new entitlements and increasing pressure to stop escalating costs would eventually require the rationing of care."
In March 2010, Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the Republican leadership, said the law would contain "higher taxes, Medicare cuts and higher premiums for most Americans."
The GOP-controlled group Crossroads GPS ran a series of ads ahead of last year's midterm elections accusing Democrats of targeting Medicare. Democrats in tough Senate races were accused of voting to "gut Medicare," "cut Medicare," "cut spending on Medicare," and so on.
The strategy was used in House races, too, helping Republicans make dramatic gains and take over the chamber after four years in the minority. In one campaign ad, Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) was accused of having "voted to cut Medicare half a trillion." He lost his race.
The GOP plan unveiled Tuesday -- championed by McConnell as well as Boehner and Cantor -- would end Medicare as we know it in ten years, shuffling Americans currently under 55 years into the private insurance market, where their government benefits will be capped at $15,000.
There's a key difference between this and what Democrats did. The Affordable Care Act extracted $500 million in Medicare savings without reducing any benefits, according to the AARP, and will "extend the solvency of the Medicare program by nearly a decade."