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Gingrich Struggles to Reset Medicare Discussion

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Newt Gingrich was on the defensive Sunday morning as he attempted to explain his stance on House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan.

The former Speaker said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that his now-infamous statement last week on NBC’s “Meet the Press” was misconstrued. Gingrich said he wasn’t asked about Ryan (R-Wis.) or his budget, which he emphasized he would vote for. Rather, he was asked whether the GOP should pass an unpopular plan, Gingrich said.

“I made the mistake of accepting [host David Gregory’s] premise. I wasn’t referring to Ryan,” he said. “I was referring to a general principle. We the people should not have Washington impose large-scale change on us.”

But “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer challenged Gingrich, playing a clip from last week’s interview that showed Gingrich referring to Ryan. During that interview, Gingrich responded to a question about Ryan’s plan by saying, “I think that that is too big a jump. I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options. Not one where you suddenly impose upon — I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.”

Schieffer asked Sunday whether the Ryan plan was “too big a jump,” as the former Speaker had said.

“I think it is a big plan that needs to be worked through with the American people,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich said he “probably used unfortunate language about social engineering” but added “that neither party should impose on the American people something that they are deeply opposed to.”

Schieffer pressed him on whether the plan was “good social engineering.”

Gingrich replied, “It’s not a question of good social engineering. I believe the Republicans should start with the Ryan plan, should go to the country and explain it, but should listen to the American people and, where necessary, modify it.”

The Medicare proposal, which is a component of a House-passed budget resolution, would revamp the federal health insurance program for seniors and the disabled. Users would instead buy private insurance, and Medicare would help subsidize the cost by making payments to the chosen plan. The proposal would only affect those age 54 and younger; the current Medicare system would not change for those 55 and older.

The backlash from the Republican Party to Gingrich’s interview last week was immediate, with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Ryan and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh among those criticizing the Georgian. The Wall Street Journal distilled the anger at the former Speaker in an editorial titled “Gingrich to House GOP: Drop Dead.”

In an appearance Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Ryan was critical of Gingrich’s words the previous week, but he indicated he’s ready to move on.

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