Ron Wyden has rolled out a Cory Booker-like hostage statement rejecting the notion that he and Paul Ryan cooperated in developing a solution to the looming Medicare collapse. Via Roll Call, Ron Wyden Takes Issue With Mitt Romney Linking Him to Paul Ryan:
At a Saturday campaign stop with his new vice presidential pick, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), Romney praised the House Budget chairman’s work with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.) to develop a Medicare overhaul plan.
“This man said, ‘I’m going to find Democrats to work with.’ He found a Democrat to co-lead a piece of legislation that makes sure we can save Medicare,” Romney said in Ashland, Va. “Republicans and Democrats coming together. He’s a man who has great ideas and the capacity to lead to find people to cross the aisle – to work together.”
Wyden was quick to push back on Romney’s version of events.
“Gov. Romney is talking nonsense. Bipartisanship requires that you not make up the facts. I did not ‘co-lead a piece of legislation.’” Wyden said. “I wrote a policy paper on options for Medicare. Several months after the paper came out, I spoke and voted against the Medicare provisions in the Ryan budget.”
Ron Wyden did a lot more than merely write a policy paper. Wyden joined with Ryan in a plan in their official capacities:
The plan started with an introduction which, in hindsight, was prophetic (emphasis mine):
Before the partisan attacks begin to escalate and the 2012 election ads start to air, we are outlining a plan for how Democrats and Republicans can work together to ensure that American retirees – now and forever – have quality, affordable health insurance.
Our plan would strengthen traditional Medicare by permanently maintaining it as a guaranteed and viable option for all of our nation’s retirees. At the same time, our plan would expand choice for seniors by allowing the private sector to compete with Medicare in an effort to offer seniors betterquality and more-affordable health care choices.
We are a Democrat and Republican; a Senator and a Representative; senior members of our respective Budget Committees; and members of the committees that have jurisdiction over Medicare and health care costs. As budgeteers, we understand the difficulty presented by demographic changes over the next several decades. As members with policy oversight, we recognize and encourage the potential for innovation to improve care and hold down costs. And most important, as representatives of hardworking Americans in Oregon and Southern Wisconsin, we realize our absolute responsibility to preserve the Medicare guarantee of affordable, accessible health care for every one of the nation’s seniors for decades to come.
It may not have been a piece of legislation, but it was a big deal when it was announced in December 2011. As reported by WaPo:
Wyden is the first elected Democrat to publicly endorse Ryan’s premium support plan, and their unusual alliance could complicate election-year politics for both parties on an explosive issue. In recent days, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has embraced the Ryan privatization plan, and GOP front-runner Newt Gingrich has offered qualified support. Democrats, meanwhile, have been gearing up to challenge the GOP across the board on the issue, accusing Republicans of pushing to “end the Medicare guarantee.” ….
Wyden said that adding traditional Medicare to Ryan’s premium support plan combines the best ideas of both parties, creating “the opportunity for progressives and conservatives to come together and address the real challenges” of the federal entitlement program: rising health costs and an aging population.
“There’s a lot to work with here in terms of trying to find common ground,” Wyden said. “This doesn’t end Medicare as we know it. People can go to bed knowing that traditional Medicare will be there for them for all time.”
Wyden was excoriated by Democrats, as reported by a blogger at HuffPo at the time:
When Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon partnered with Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, to propose Medicare reform, Wyden was promptly denounced by New York Times columnist and Nobel Economics laureate Paul Krugman as a “useful idiot” who did “a bad, bad thing.” Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, dismissed the initiative as “lipstick on the pig,” and Representative Pete Stark (D-California) hyperventilated that the new proposal “ends Medicare as we know it, plain and simple.” ….
Wyden is adamant that “Medicare is the most important fiber in the social safety net. I would never do anything to shred it, weaken it or harm it in any way. Our proposal places traditional Medicare, long supported by progressives, alongside a menu of private alternatives that provide the choice and competition long supported by conservatives.”
David Dayen of Firedoglake reported at the time:
The news that Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Paul Ryan have joined forces on a premium support/Medicare hybrid has gone over like a lead balloon in the Democratic caucus, as well as the White House. First off, Democrats in the House showed little interest in the plan, which would allow private companies on a regulated exchange to compete with fee-for-service Medicare, with a competitive bidding process determining the level of premium support.
As Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) told Bloomberg this morning, “I don’t know why Ron Wyden is giving cover” to Ryan. Other Democratic aides piled on: “For starters, this is bad policy and a complete political loser,” an aide told Talking Points Memo’s Brian Beutler. “On top of the terrible politics, they even admit that it dismantles Medicare but achieves no budgetary savings while doing so — the worst of all worlds. Thanks for nothing.” [...]
Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) weighs in: “Despite Wyden’s claims otherwise, the Wyden-Ryan plan ends Medicare as we know it, plain and simple. If these two get their way, senior citizens’ health coverage will depend on what big insurance offers and what seniors — most of them on modest, fixed incomes — can afford. That combination will jeopardize health and economic security for seniors.”
Since Ryan was named as the Veep pick, Democrats have been furiously denying history on the Ryan-Wyden Plan. Think Progress searches for a big distinction between the Ryan-Wyden Plan and proposed legislation, but admits that there is a “striking resemblance”:
The plan Sen. Wyden co-authored with Ryan does bear a striking resemblance to the proposed Medicare changes in Ryan’s latest budget for the House GOP. Both keep traditional Medicare as a kind of public option, in an exchange where it would compete with private plans offering insurance to seniors. The government would give seniors support for purchasing these plans, and that support would be benchmarked to the cost of the second-least expensive plan. The plans would also be prohibited from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions.
The fact is that Ron Wyden built a plan with Paul Ryan to save Medicare while introducing a private marketplace for insurance for those who choose that option.
The Ryan-Wyden plan will resemble very closely the type of steps which will eventually have to be taken.
But, as Wyden predicted in the introduction to the plan, “the partisan attacks [will] begin to escalate and the 2012 election ads [will] start to air.” And now Wyden is running for cover under air assault from Democrats once again.