Wednesday, April 27, 2011

As GOP Faces Town Hall Fury, Reid Says Senate Will Vote on Medicare-Buster

Across the nation, GOP town hall meetings continued to be raucous affairs. Boisterous crowds loudly denounced the Republican scheme to abolish Medicare, hand all the money to their insurance company cronies, and pawn off future seniors with coupons that won't even cover a third of their health care needs.

In Florida, Rep. Allen West joined the growing list of GOP factors who've faced fractious forums. He'd hardly stood up when voters loudly began decrying GOP Medicare-busting. GOP loyalists fought to suppress the dissenters. The crowd harangued West for voting to dismantle the elder-care program while giving the richest Americans an additional 10% tax cut, and West's minions tried shouting them down.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced he would be scheduling a Senate vote on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) offending 2012 Budget proposal, allowing his Republican colleagues the opportunity to show their support for their House brethren. Or not.

The House measure is not expected to pass in the Democratically-controlled Senate, but Reid said, "Republicans seem to be in love with the Ryan budget," and the vote would demonstrate whether "Republican Senators like the budget as much as their House colleagues did."

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) had already announced she would not vote for the Ryan plan if such a vote were held.

Analysts figured the vote would put Senate Republicans in a tough bind. Voting against Medicare couponization while giving bigger tax cuts to the rich would alienate their conservative base, while voting for Medicare couponization while giving bigger tax cuts to the rich might alienate independents, they say. Oddly, analysts didn't seem to think Reid's move would help Republicans prove how great they were and what a wonderful plan they had.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) didn't say, "Great, let's show America that we Republicans are ready to vote for our terrific plan that creates sunshine and roses and lifts all Americans to heights of joy." Instead, Hatch challenged Reid to allow a vote on the House Progressive Caucus' People's Budget, thinking that would somehow embarrass Democrats. While the bill's title does reek of tie dye and patchouli, it was Hatch who came across as petulant, whiny, and inexplicably ashamed of Ryan's GOP plan.

Unfortunately, the People's Budget didn't pass in the House, so the Senate couldn't vote on it unless some Senators wanted to introduce it as a Senate bill first. Hatch, a Senate veteran, presumably knew this. It was not immediately known whether Hatch himself was planning to introduce the People's Budget.

Ryan's bill did pass the House on a strictly party-line vote, so it is available for a Senate vote. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll revealed 84% of Americans didn't think it was a good idea to coddle the insurance biz by handing them all the money in Medicare and tossing future seniors into the retail market to fend for themselves with 30% off coupons. Ryan's budget proposes that when folks presently under 55 become seniors, they be given coupons to be used toward the purchase of private health insurance policies. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office figures by 2030, those coupons would cover less than a third of the cost of premiums, deductibles, co-pays and other expenses. Calling the coupons "premium support," as Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) did, didn't help the cause. 

The same WaPo/ABC poll revealed 72% of Americans thought Americans making more than $250,000 should pay higher taxes. Ryan's budget proposes that richer Americans tax rate be cut by another 10%, from 35% to 25%.

A more recent Gallup/USA Today poll showed Americans were evenly split on whether they preferred President Barak Obama's budget plan or Ryan's budget plan, 44%-43%. Republicans have been crowing that poll proves Americans love the idea of gutting Medicare, but Gallup/USA Today didn't ask a specific question about the voucher program. WaPo/ABC's poll found most Americans opposed Medicare couponization when it was explained to them.

Back in Florida, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) was having a devil of a time in his Orlando town hall, with a hostile crowd of 300 booing and hissing their displeasure.

Republicans thus far are taking the tack that the catcalls are coming from Democratic plants organized by "My town halls are being disrupted by Democrats," Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) complained. "I'm not sensing the general public is angered by Medicare reform," he added.

Barletta also did not specify whether he thought all 84% of Americans who opposed Medicare couponization were Democrats. It was not immediately known whether he had demanded the birth certificates of those who had heckled him.

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