New DNC chief: GOP budget endangers senior citizens' lives

Republicans' budget plan would put seniors' lives at risk, the incoming chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) said Thursday.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman tapped by President Obama to lead the DNC, said she stood by her characterization of Republicans' 2012 budget as a "death trap" for seniors.

When pressed on whether she intended to say that the GOP budget put seniors' lives at risk, Wasserman Schultz doubled down.

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"That's exactly what I'm suggesting," she said during an appearance on CNN.

The Republican budget, drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would reform Medicare and Medicaid in significant ways, chiefly by replacing the existing system with block grants to states, which in turn would have the ability to tailor their own systems.

"Sixty percent of seniors in nursing homes are on Medicaid," Wasserman Schultz said on MSNBC. "And it stands to reason that if you are going after the total amount of spending on Medicaid, the way Paul Ryan's Republican plan does, and you dramatically cut the amount of money you're giving to states, and block-granting that program, it stands to reason that frail, elderly senior citizens in nursing homes, who are going to not be able to get into nursing homes anymore because Medicaid won't be there for them, will not survive."

Democrats are making a target of Ryan's budget, which they hope to turn into a campaign issue next year when Obama is up for reelection. In a major speech on Wednesday, President Obama also went after Ryan's budget, focusing on the changes it would make to Medicare and Medicaid.

"Let me be absolutely clear: I will preserve these healthcare programs as a promise we make to each other in this society," Obama said. "I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs."

Republicans, including those who were invited to attend the speech, reacted angrily to what they said was a politically motivated attack on them.

"What we heard today was not fiscal leadership from our commander in chief," Ryan said in a press conference on Capitol Hill following Obama's speech. "What we heard today was a political broadside from our campaigner in chief."

Wasserman Schultz defended the president's speech Wednesday on fiscal policy as aimed toward bringing the differences between the parties into stark relief.

"We have to recognize we have a dramatic contrast between the way the president envisions trying to address our budget deficit and turn our economy around and focus on job creation, and not short-circuit our economic recovery, and the direction that the Republicans propose, which is to balance all the sacrifice on the backs of our seniors, our elderly and people who are struggling in America," Wasserman Schultz said Thursday on NBC's "Today" show.