House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) went on the offensive over the politically charged issue of Medicare reform, alleging that Democrats will look insincere if they do not offer an alternative to the Republican prescription drug plan.
DeLay called the Democrats’ bluff on claims that the GOP shuts the minority party out of the process of crafting major legislation. He seized on comments by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who suggested Monday that Democrats may forego crafting a Medicare alternative.
“The Democrats have no credibility on this,” DeLay said at a meeting with reporters Tuesday. “Where is their substitute? … Are they working on one?”
Hoyer had said House Democrats might find better uses for their time.
“Well, our strategy right now is to oppose the Republican bill,” Hoyer said. “We would have a strategy if … there was any inclination the Ways and Means Committee or the Commerce Committee would sit down with Democrats and say, ‘look, we’ve all said we’re for prescription drugs, we all want to make sure that seniors have the availability of an affordable prescription drug plan.’ … But that’s not happening over here,” he said.
Hoyer did stress that the Democrats have already introduced a plan – about twice the size of the one Republicans are expected to report out of the Ways and Means Committee later Tuesday – but that they know it will not be brought to the floor.
“I think we could come up with, frankly, something within the $400 billion, but whether or not we are inclined to do that when we are not going to be able to offer anything,” remains to be seen, Hoyer said.
DeLay did not say whether or not Democrats would be allowed to bring an alternative to the House floor.
DeLay deferred a final decision to the Rules Committee, though he did say he couldn’t see any problem with allowing a Democratic bill “if they can offer a substitute within the rules of the House.”
Hoyer took umbrage at Delay’s assertion that Democrats were not serious about the Medicare issue.
“In the real world, as opposed to the world of Beltway chatter, Democrats are the only ones with credibility on the prescription drug issue,” Hoyer said.
“Democrats have not announced whether or not we will offer an alternative, and what that alternative would be, and we welcome the Majority Leader’s implication that the majority may not act in their usual autocratic manner in which Democrats are barred from offering our alternatives on the floor,” he added.