Pelosi Taps Dingell, Rangel for Medicare Road Show

Posted February 25, 2004 at 4:59pm

House Democratic leaders are sending two deans of their Caucus — Reps. Charlie Rangel (N.Y.) and John Dingell (Mich.) — on the road to wage the party’s major grassroots offensive against the Republican-passed Medicare bill.

The duo will hit the trail next month to host town hall-style events highlighting what Democrats argue are flaws in the prescription drug measure. Rangel (Ways and Means) and Dingell (Energy and Commerce) serve as ranking members on the two panels that oversaw passage of the measure, which narrowly cleared the House last November after a three-hour marathon vote.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) tapped the two senior Members to go on the road as part of her larger strategy of regaining the House majority by moving beyond the Beltway and drawing distinctions between the two parties on major issues. The Minority Leader also is talking to senior members of her Caucus about traveling the country on other key issues in the coming month, including the economy and jobs, education, and homeland security.

“The idea is to get people on the road who are senior members of the Caucus with experience, knowledge and expertise on the subject we want to talk about,” said Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly. “We want to get local press coverage and local interest on the issue.”

“It’s about going beyond the Beltway, leapfrogging over the Beltway, to get Democrats on the road and on the record.”

Rangel and Dingell will first headline events in their home states of New York and Michigan and then hit other states where Democrats face tough battles in 2004, including Kentucky and New Mexico. Daly said the two Members will talk about how the Medicare bill is “bad for seniors” and doesn’t “do what it purports to do.”

“This is a bad bill,” Dingell said, adding that he’ll go wherever the leadership asks him to go. “We’re going to tell people what it’s going to do.”

Dan Maffei, spokesman for Rangel, said his boss and Dingell are ideal for the job, not only because of their policy backgrounds, but also because they are seniors themselves and can personalize the issue.

“Charlie Rangel and John Dingell are of the generation of folks directly affected by it,” Maffei said. “That’s our ace in the hole with the two of them and getting them on the road.”

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders, led by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), are putting together a second round of Member forums on Medicare and prescription drug coverage. Leaders will encourage Members to hold a series of events in their districts over the weekend of March 20 to bring focus to the issue, arming them with a video to present at the events.

“It’s important for Democrats to aggressively explain to America’s seniors the reality of the Republican prescription drug bill, especially in light of the millions of dollars of taxpayer money the Bush administration is spending on a deceptive advertising campaign,” said Hoyer spokeswoman Stacey Farnen. “It’s very important to bring this information directly to seniors because once seniors have heard the details of this bill they don’t like it.”

Democrats held similar events in July before the prescription drug bill hit the floor.