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Steele Now Criticizes Cost-Savings In Medicare, But Wanted Medicare Cuts ‘On The Table’ In ‘06

In an attempt to harness the fears that many seniors have about health care reform, the Republican National Committee released a “Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights” today, in which it declares that Medicare should not be “cut”:

PROTECT MEDICARE AND NOT CUT IT IN THE NAME OF HEALTH CARE REFORM: President Obama and Congressional Democrats are promoting a government-run health care experiment that will cut over $500 billion from Medicare to be used to pay for their plan. Medicare should not be raided to pay for another entitlement.

In a Washington Post op-ed, RNC Chairman Michael Steele expanded on that idea, saying that President Obama “and congressional Democrats are planning to raid, not aid, Medicare by cutting $500 billion from the program to fund his health-care experiment.” “These types of ‘reforms’ don’t make sense for the future of an already troubled federal program or for the services it provides that millions of Americans count on,” wrote Steele.

But Steele hasn’t always believed that Medicare should be sacrosanct when it comes to finding cost-savings. Appearing on NBC’s Meet The Press as a Senate candidate in 2006, Steele said that cuts to Medicare “absolutely” had to be “on the table” in order to “control runaway federal spending”:

MR. RUSSERT: Your Web site, Mr. Steele, says you want to control runaway federal spending.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Mm-hmm.

MR. RUSSERT: What programs would you cut?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Well, what I would like to do is something that we did in Maryland. We — Governor Ehrlich and I came into office, we had a $2.2 billion deficit staring us in the face and a bloated government to contend with. And so we stepped back and evaluated exactly what the priorities of our government should be. Seventy-eight percent of our spending is in two areas: education and health care.

MR. RUSSERT: It’s the same in the federal government.

LT. GOV. STEELE: It’s the same. And my point…

MR. RUSSERT: Seventy percent is Social Security, Medicare and Defense.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you touch those?

LT. GOV. STEELE: Abso — Tim, everything has…

MR. RUSSERT: Everything’s on the table.

LT. GOV. STEELE: Everything has to be on the table, my friend. We are living in a time — we have to — government has to act like the rest of, the rest of the world and sit back and look at your budget. If you don’t have enough money in any given month, what do you do? You’ve got to reprioritize. You’ve got to take care of the business at hand.

Additionally, the RNC as an institution has aggressively supported Medicare cuts in the past. In 1995, when congressional Republicans sought to cut $270 billion from Medicare over seven years, the RNC ran radio ads supporting the cuts.

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Finally, the implication of Steele and the RNC’s Medicare rhetoric is that proposed health care reforms would cut benefits for seniors, but as FactCheck.org recently noted, that claim is “outright false, though that doesn’t keep it from being repeated ad infinitum.” The AARP, one of the largest membership organizations representing seniors in America, agrees.

Update:

Matt Yglesias notes that Steele nonsensically argues that government shouldn’t get between seniors and their Medicare.

Update:

,Media Matters Action has a full fact-check of Steele’s Washington Post op-ed.[u