Dems go after Pawlenty on Medicare

Democrats on Tuesday pressured GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on Medicare ahead of his visit to Florida.

While announcing his presidential bid Monday, Pawlenty reiterated that he would release his own Medicare reform plan separate from Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) controversial proposal. Democrats pressed Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, on whether that means he would veto Ryan's plan if it came to his desk as president.

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"@timpawlenty is in South Fla. today. Will he answer this question? If President, would he sign or veto Ryan plan to end Medicare?" tweeted Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is also a congresswoman from Florida.

Democrats have vowed to make Medicare a "litmus test" for GOP candidates in 2012, hoping to capitalize politically on Ryan's plan, which proposes drastic changes to the popular but fiscally troubled entitlement program. 

Most recently, Democrats said that GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich violated the "litmus test" by calling Ryan's plan an example of "right-wing social engineering." Many top Republicans and conservatives scolded Gingrich for his comments, and he later backtracked on them. 

Pawlenty, on the other hand, has used a more muted tone when describing his stance on Ryan's plan.

He's praised the Budget Committee chairman for releasing a proposal, but said that his plan would focus on "payment reforms" to healthcare providers, instead of transforming the program into a "premium support" model that helps seniors purchase certain private health insurance coverage.

While Pawlenty has largely escaped sharp criticism from the GOP for his stance, Democrats indicated that might be because his position is not clear.

"Despite empty rhetoric in his book about having the courage to stand, and 24 hours into a campaign that allegedly promised straight talk, the American people still haven’t gotten a straight yes or no answer from Pawlenty on if he’s going to end Medicare," said Eddie Vale, communications director for the Democratic outside spending group Protect Your Care.

"My relatives in Florida — many who rely on Medicare — won’t be able to make his town hall today but if they could they would be asking ‘what is he waiting for?’ "