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Democrats Find Useful Fodder in Paul Ryan’s Record

Updated: 7:43 p.m.

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) as his running mate makes the Senate Democratic talking points almost write themselves.

That’s essentially the point of a memo circulated to Democratic Senators by Caucus Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) on Tuesday.

Schumer and other Senate Democrats have highlighted the budget plan drafted by Ryan, the House Budget chairman, for years, with attacks on its Medicare and tax provisions that have become quite familiar on Capitol Hill.

Schumer said, however, that the electorate outside the Beltway may not have paid enough attention, and he wants Democratic Senators to continue on the same themes.

“We know these messages are powerful and cause independents to abandon Republicans. As familiar as these points may seem by now, we must keep repeating them – for two reasons,” Schumer wrote.

“First, many general election voters are only now turning their attention to the particulars of the political debate. Second, since choosing Ryan, Romney is rather absurdly seeking to distance himself from the most controversial aspects of Ryan’s plan,” Schumer added. “We must do our part to make Romney own the Ryan plan in its entirety.”

Romney has already said he has some areas of disagreement with at least some of Ryan’s plans, but he has also said he would have signed Ryan’s budget into law if it came to his desk as president. (Presidents do not sign budget resolutions, but budget reconciliation measures and other legislation implementing budget blueprints do need presidential approval.)

However, Romney has said he differs with Ryan on how to deal with scheduled reductions to Medicare that are being used to fund President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law.

“My commitment is, if I become president, I’m going to restore that $716 billion to the Medicare trust fund, so that current seniors can know that trust fund is not being raided, and we’re going to make sure and get Medicare on track to be solvent long term on a permanent basis,” Romney said.

The 2010 health care law reduced payments for a program known as Medicare Advantage. Under Medicare Advantage, seniors may opt to have a private insurance plan in lieu of traditional Medicare, with the private company being paid by the government for the service at a higher cost.

Romney has previously signaled he would repeal the Medicare cuts rather than redirecting them as in the Ryan plan.

Repealing the Medicare cuts from the health care law rather than keeping the money saved from the cuts in Medicare would send about $200 billion to private insurers over the next decade, a Democratic aide said.

Democrats and affiliated outside groups have already run ads against vulnerable Republican incumbents on the Medicare front, highlighting Ryan’s plan even before he was chosen as vice presidential nominee.

The Senate Democrats’ memo contains little new material. For instance, Democrats have criticized Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) for voting in favor of the House budget plan as both a Representative and a Senator.

In his memo, Schumer encourages his fellow Democrats to continue to press on Medicare, even as the Romney campaign steps up attacks on Obama over taking money from the popular entitlement program.

“The bottom line is this: in choosing Ryan as his running mate, Romney has nationalized the debate over Ryan’s unpopular Medicare plan. For this gambit to succeed, Romney will need to defy the laws of political gravity,” Schumer said.

While the memo reprises past debates about Medicare and taxes, Schumer also wants Senate Democrats to add broader budget critiques, saying the goal is to demonstrate Ryan is not a “deficit hawk.” He cites estimates that say Ryan’s budget resolution would not balance in the near future.

“The math does not add up in Ryan’s own budget,” Schumer writes. “Even taking the unrealistically rosy assumptions that Ryan stipulates in his budget (for instance, that revenue levels would be 19 percent of GDP), his plan would not balance the budget until 2040.”

The additional line of attack on the Ryan budget is intended by Schumer to
undermine the Romney campaign narrative about the Ryan selection that he is a serious leader on deficit reduction efforts.

“If we can succeed in showing voters how Ryan is not really a deficit hawk at all – that he prioritizes conservative ideology over balancing the budget – the rationale for his selection is gone, and Romney’s political high-wire act will fail,” Schumer concluded.

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