Political Animal


May 26, 2011 3:45 PM Pawlenty gets off the fence, would sign Medicare privatization

By Steve Benen

Since I was critical of Tim Pawlenty earlier for dodging four days worth of questions about the House Republican budget plan, it’s only fair to note that he finally got off the fence this afternoon.

After facing criticism in recent days for sidestepping the issue, Tim Pawlenty today in New Hampshire said if he were president and Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal came to his desk, he would sign it. […]

As Pawlenty said yesterday in Washington and reiterated today in New Hampshire, he is planning to release his own budget proposal, with key differences from Ryan’s plan on how to handle Medicare, sometime in the coming months.

After praising Ryan’s “courage and his leadership,” which is itself a bizarre notion, Pawlenty said, “[I]f I can’t have my own plan — as president, I’ll have my own plan — if I can’t have that, and the bill came to my desk and I had to choose between signing or not Congressman Ryan’s plan, of course I would sign it.”

Pawlenty probably didn’t have much of a choice here. He couldn’t dodge the question indefinitely — the more he dissembled, the more he was pressed for a straight answer — and Pawlenty no doubt saw what happened to Gingrich when he tried to distance himself from the radical House Republican plan.

Regardless, it’s hard to overstate how happy Democrats are about this. They tend to look for answers to “the Paul Ryan question” the way baseball-card collectors look at a 1911 Honus Wagner — a valuable gem that will go up in value over time.

It’s ironic, in a way, that Pawlenty, like his GOP rivals, is making Democrats and his party’s right-wing base happy at the same time. The Tea Party crowd has come to see this as a litmus-test issue, and will be satisfied with Pawlenty’s (grudging) answer, while Dems have come to see this as a general election deal-breaker — mainstream voters just won’t tolerate ending Medicare and replacing it with a privatized voucher scheme.

Pawlenty can’t win during the primaries without taking the right-wing line, and will struggle to win in the general election after taking the right-wing line.

Nice job, House Republicans.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • StevyB on May 26, 2011 3:55 PM:

    Somebody needs to remind the Governor that the Ryan budget is a budget resolution, not a proposed law. Budget resolutions are not presented to the President for signature; once both Houses of Congress approve a conference agreement on a particular fiscal year's budget resolution it is used to govern Congressional consideration of budget legislation affecting that fiscal year.

  • SkJL on May 26, 2011 4:02 PM:

    Yes, he would struggle to win the general election, but T-Paw would have a lot of assistance if the GOP is successful in the voter id scam that's sweeping the nation right now.

  • Ron Byers on May 26, 2011 4:09 PM:

    I love the Republicans. They are doubling down on stupid.

    On a related note Boehner says the Privatizing Ryan medicare proposal only played a small part in the Republicans losing the NY 26th. Double down, boys, double down.

    Beauty is skin deep, but stupid goes all the way to the bone.

  • mddan on May 26, 2011 4:12 PM:

    Where does Mitt Romney stand on Ryan's budget? For it before he was against it, or will he take a principled stand and back it?

  • DAY on May 26, 2011 4:28 PM:

    Is it just me, or does T Paw look like a Smurf?

  • tom o'neill on May 26, 2011 4:31 PM:

    Best analogy of the week (maybe the month:) Democrats tend to look a the Paul Ryan question the way baseball-card collectors look at a 1911 Honus Wagner -- a valuable gem that will go up in value over time.

  • Brenna on May 26, 2011 4:33 PM:

    It's hard to believe this is really happening. Tuesday was a barometer of how the country will voting in 2012. My God, what is wrong with the republicans? Have they always been this dense?? Do they really believe the country is gonna back this callous plan after it's explained better?

    It's shocking that they would think seniors are going to vote against their own children and grandchildren. My daughter is in her 20s and she's thinking ahead that she might have to support her parents, or even worse, there goes her inheritance.

  • maryQ on May 26, 2011 4:50 PM:

    hey, Steve!
    How about "Nice job, President Obama".
    He gave them the shovels, knowing what they would do.

  • Rich on May 26, 2011 5:08 PM:

    he seems like a road company Mitt Romeny, except he doesn't have Mitt's bucks or his experience buying and selling stuff on a big scale.

  • doppich on May 26, 2011 6:16 PM:

    How does one "sign" a Powerpoint presentation?

  • Robert Waldmann on May 26, 2011 8:50 PM:

    Ah I posted a long screed at the E.J. Dionne column to which you linked (E.J.'s gonna e-mail "I quoted you and you sent me nutcases."

    My objection was to his identification of Ryan plan supporters in the general public (if there are any) with tea partiers. I guess that tea party supporters overwhelmingly oppose the Ryan plan. They were the ones who wanted to keep the government's hands off their Medicare.

    The organizations which claim to speak for the tea partiers support the Ryan plan, but their claims are not always completely reliable.

    I think that the Republican Party broke with the tea party.

    Note that, by criticizing Ryan, Gingrich lost Limbaugh. He didn't lose primaries. His support didn't decline much in the polls (it would have to be negative).

    Republican apparatchiki claim to support the Ryan plan. I know of no evidence that the Republican base does.

    OK here is a Quinnipiac Poll released May 4 2011

    48. I'm going to read you two statements about the future of the Medicare program. After I read both statements, please tell me which one comes closer to your own view.

    A) Medicare should remain as it is today, with a defined set of benefits for seniors. OR B) Medicare should be changed so that seniors who join Medicare in 2022 receive a fixed amount of money from the government each year that they can use to shop for their own private health insurance policy.

    Tot Rep Dem Ind

    A) Remain as is
    60% 46% 75% 57%

    B) Should be changed
    34 49 19 36

    6 5 6 7

    I deleted results for men and for women to fit it in this window (it looks legible to me as I type and will, I'm sure be illegible once posted). They didn't report for Tea Party Supporters, but look, the Republican proposal has the support of a tiny plurality (49 for Ryan 46 against) of self declared Republicans.

    Quinnipiac is being kind to Ryan as they don't explain that the vouchers will be for much less than the predicted cost of un-reformed Medicare. 54% of self declared Republicans oppose cutting Medicare (a separate question). The fraction who oppose cutting it and turning it into a voucher can only be guessed, but I'm sure it is a majority.

    They've driven off independents and split their base (here self identified Republicans but I betcha Tea partiers too).

  • HumanistPatriot on May 27, 2011 12:58 PM:

    Pawlenty remains dogged by political baggage and unsavory associates. See this example from a Minnesota political blog: http://www.rippleinstillwater.com/search?q=pawlenty

  • PAT on May 27, 2011 5:24 PM:

    I have been to a nursing home for almost 6 years and I have seen so many people that God should have taken out of their misery and loneliness NOW.
    But the world doesn't work that way when it is your time you will go. I do feel that many procedures that really do not change quality of life are a waste of money but who is to say what is necessary. If we change Medicare what will become of these people who worked their entire lives to make this country a democracy and fought to achieve this goal. It's frightening what has happened and all due to GREED.