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House GOP Freshmen to Obama: Stop Playing Politics With Medicare

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Rep. Nan Hayworth and other Republican freshman urge President Barack Obama to stop “playing politics” with entitlement reform at a news conference Wednesday.

House GOP freshmen sought to defend their stance on Medicare reform Wednesday as Democrats continue hammering them on the politically tough issue.

In a letter sent Tuesday to President Barack Obama, a group of 42 first-term lawmakers called for an end to “playing politics with key issues facing our country.”

“As the freshman class, we have the opportunity to wipe the state clean and fulfill the mandate set by the people to strengthen our country for future generations — not continue the petty politics we have seen in the past, which only crates an environment of stalemate,” the letter states.

House Republicans have stumbled on their message when it comes to including entitlement reform as a condition of their support for supporting a debt ceiling increase. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sought to harden the line in a speech Monday before the Economic Club of New York in which he said that raising the debt limit by trillions of dollars should be accompanied by trillions of dollars in spending cuts.

House Republicans voted almost unanimously last month in favor of Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget outline that calls for significant reforms to entitlement programs, including creating a voucher program for Medicare recipients to buy private insurance. Some Members have faced a backlash over that proposal back home. Democrats have seized on the proposal and are targeting GOP Members in swing districts for supporting the plan.

The freshman lawmakers on Wednesday decried such tactics.

“When you immediately turn to say, ‘Good, this is our 2012 issue,’ you’ve at least paralyzed that issue until 2013,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said at a press conference.

Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, maintained that many of the GOP freshmen on the letter to Obama “used false and misleading scare tactics against seniors last year” when discussing the health care reform law.

“Voters are smarter than the freshmen give them credit for, they can see through House Republicans’ hypocritical stunt to try silence their constituents’ outrage at Republicans’ vote to end Medicare and protect Big Oil,” Ferguson said in a statement.

The GOP letter comes as an appointed group of bipartisan lawmakers continues to engage in talks with Vice President Joseph Biden on raising the debt limit. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) is the House GOP’s lead negotiator in those discussions.

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