Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 5, 2011

GETTING BTU'D.... In 1993, President Bill Clinton pressed congressional Democrats to vote for proposal to tax the heat content of fuels -- the so-called "BTU tax." Rank-and-file House Dems didn't like it, but many of them grudging went along, following Clinton's lead. A few months later, budget talks stalled in the Senate, and the White House felt it had no choice but to drop the BTU measure.

A year later, vulnerable House Dems were slammed with attack ads for having voted for the measure -- and having nothing to show for it -- and the issue likely contributed to Democrats losing their majority in 1994.

With that in mind, Karen Tumulty asked today, "Is it possible that House Republicans got 'BTUed' on Medicare?"

Oh, it's more than possible.

As of this afternoon, Republicans appear to be in full retreat over their plan to end Medicare and replace it with a privatized voucher scheme. Voters hate the idea, and Dems are using it as a cudgel to bludgeon GOP members. But the retreat doesn't change the problem for vulnerable Republicans -- they already voted to end Medicare, even after telling voters last year that they wouldn't, basically because their leadership told them they had to.

Ezra Klein explained the phenomenon of "getting BTU'd."

In 2010, a number of House members felt BTU'd after Nancy Pelosi forced them to vote on a cap-and-trade plan that never made it to the Senate floor, but made it into a lot of their reelection campaigns. But it's not clear how much cap-and-trade -- or, for that matter, the BTU tax -- actually mattered in the subsequent election.

But Ryan's Medicare plan will be a core part of the Democratic message in 2012. This could be a BTUing at a whole other level.

And Dems couldn't be happier about it.

Steve Benen 1:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Comments

"BTU" Medicare!

B - Bastards
T - Tried to
U - Undermine
Medicare.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 5, 2011 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

"BTU" Medicaid!

B - Bastards
T - Trying to
U - Underfund
Medicaid!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 5, 2011 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Great! I assume this means that the Gang of Six won't call for cuts in Medicare and Social Security, and the Obama Administration and Senate Democrats won't rally behind them, right? Right?

Posted by: Tom Allen on May 5, 2011 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

I am still wondering why anybody in his right mind thought the Medicare proposal had any chance in hell of not being a total disaster. Any guesses? Are the Republicans just that far out of touch? Do they believe their own astroturf groups? Do they know what astroturf means?

What would you think when the Heritage Foundation came to you with the following:

Brain: "Paul, we have a great idea. What we really need to do is privatize medicare and then turn the savings over the the rich. We are sure the seniors who are our core constitutents are going to go for that."

Ryan: "The seniors are already on medicare won't go for it. They vote."

Brain: "They are old. Just tell them we are going to screw their kids, not them."

Ryan: "Yeh, that's the ticket. They will go for it."

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 5, 2011 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

"full retreat" indeed. Such slander. I point to this article in which Cantor's spokesman indignantly declares that they are in full strategic withdrawal (or as you put it full advancing the other way).

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/04/eric-cantor-medicare-reform-report_n_857851.html

"Asked whether that meant Republicans were sticking with Ryan’s version of Medicare reform once talks began at the Blair House with Vice President Joseph Biden on Thursday, Dayspring replied: "The starting point is the Ryan budget, period."

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on May 5, 2011 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

With Republican leadership saying today that they would get it done if the co trolled the Senate and presidency, look for this "promise" to be featured in every 2012 campaign around the country.

Posted by: Mainer on May 5, 2011 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Always good to remind the voters about it. But the election is a year and a half away, and other issues may predominate by then.

John Boehner was perhaps very smart to let the Ryan Budget pass quickly, so the Tea Party could be sent into some little firefights with their constituents, learn their lesson, and get back into line, soon as possible.

The long-term future is going to look a lot like the Democratic game plan: piecemeal deficit reduction while saving the welfare state. If 70-80% of the people say end the rich tax cuts and leave Medicare alone, that is basically what is going to happen. [Ezra Klein]

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on May 5, 2011 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

I was going to add that Ezra Klein picked up your item, and I disagree with him about the same issue of how important it will be in Nov. 2012. Basically it will be old news, and voters can change their minds every three months until then. Democrats ought to assume that this is just Round 2 of a much longer fight.

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on May 5, 2011 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

This post is a sad reminder of how efforts to address anthropogenic global warming -- which is what the Clinton administration's 1993 BTU tax proposal, like Pelosi's 2010 cap-and-trade proposal, was intended to do -- have been thwarted for an entire generation. And the result is that it's now too late to prevent a global catastrophe.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 5, 2011 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Brainy Cantor , Courageous Ryan , man of the people governor Walker , and ultra moderate Snow . Freedom lovers and gritty defenders of the Constitution , probably too just too good for us peasants . Who wouldn't wonder if they brush their teeth to the strains of the star spangled banner , wiping a tear away at the thought of the air . Snif ... why not ?

Yes , yes , yes , the Republican party thinking things through for the money , and not just in government but your bedrooms too .

Posted by: FRP on May 5, 2011 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Dave Camp (R) also said today, besides dropping the Medicare fight, he and the GOP were dropping their plan to repeal "Obamacare", citing the same reasons...."need to move on" - Somewhere, somehow, sombody with half a brain told House GOPers - dudes, we are getting killed on this...dump the TeaParty guys while you still have the chance...... And dump them they have.
Been a pretty good week for the weak, ineffectual, timid, compromising president Barack Obama, hasn't it?

Posted by: T2 on May 5, 2011 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

I respect this type of analysis and really hope it is true. But wouldn't it be better to wait until a deal is in place that doesn't end Medicare before taking the victory lap? There would seem to be a real danger that some Republicans will hear of this and say to themselves "If I am going to get beaten up for my vote anyway then why not stick to our guns?"

Posted by: Hopeful Realist on May 5, 2011 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Posted by: jjm on May 5, 2011 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry. By this time next year, Republicans will be crowing about how they saved Medicare from Democratic plans to undermine it. And their media cohorts will report this as gospel.

Posted by: josef on May 5, 2011 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly shows the wolves in sheep's clothing. They've been exposed for all to see....trying to create the real death panels.

Posted by: bjobotts on May 5, 2011 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Like the Democrats wouldn't immediately apologize if any Republican complained.

Posted by: H-Bob on May 5, 2011 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK
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