Democrat Kathy Hochul was sworn in today as the U.S. representative of New York’s 26th District — the fourth Democrat from the district since 1857. Hochul’s unexpected victory was a referendum on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to end Medicare. However, a recent poll also revealed that the American public is largely displeased with Ryan’s plans to eviscerate Medicaid. As TP Health editor Igor Volsky noted, Ryan’s plan to turn it into a block grant program essentially forces states to make up the funding difference by “capping enrollment, cutting eligibility, limiting mandatory benefits, and lowering provider reimbursements” or, as the non-partisan CBO put it, “provide less extensive coverage.”
Today, ThinkProgress interviewed several Democratic House members on Capitol Hill to get their reactions to the public pushback. Asked whether the GOP is just out-of-touch with public sentiment on entitlement programs, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told ThinkProgress that the Republicans actually “deserve credit” for following through on the GOP principle that dictates eliminating the social safety net:
PELOSI: I think Republicans deserve credit for doing what they believe, and they do not believe in Medicare or Medicaid. But I think as they find out what the ramifications are of their actions, you will see something different. I don’t see them block-granting medicaid. I really don’t. But you never know.
Several House Democrats agreed that the Republican plan for Medicaid and Medicare is destructive and ultimately won’t go anywhere. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) called Ryan’s Medicaid plan “nonsense” and told ThinkProgress that “it will ultimately fade away” in negotiations. Noting that seniors in nursing homes get most of the benefit from Medicaid, McDermott said “the new members of the Republican caucus are simply unaware of what they’re talking about. Most of them have never served, have never been involved in legislation.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) told ThinkProgress that the public sees Republicans trying to extract from the public “things that have helped them” at “their own peril.” “Most of these families didn’t get the Bush tax cuts, so they’re wondering ‘why do I have to lose my Medicare or Medicaid so we can pay for the deficits caused by the Bush tax cuts?’”
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) warned that Republicans won’t stop with “terminating” Medicare and gouging out Medicaid. Highlighting several past efforts to “eviscerate” or privatize Social Security, Garamendi told ThinkProgress that Republicans are “determined to wreck the American social safety net for seniors and others.” “This is a fundamental issue about the very nature of America” and “the values that we hold,” he said. “We’re not going to throw seniors and others out the door to fend for themselves who have no ability to get the medical services that we need.”