Boehner tells GOP it can play offense on Medicare with Ryan on the ticket

Speaker John Boehner insisted Republicans can “play offense” on Medicare with Rep. Paul Ryan as the party’s vice-presidential candidate during a during a Tuesday night conference call with House Republicans.

Boehner (R-Ohio) told his conference that Republicans were going to be attacked on Medicare regardless of Ryan's selection, according to a source familiar with the routine weekly call with leadership and rank-and-file.

“The pundits are buzzing that with Paul on the ticket, the Democrats are going to attack us on Medicare. Well, here’s a news flash: they were gonna do that anyway,” Boehner told House Republicans on the call, according to a source familiar with the conversation.

“The best defense on Medicare is a good offense. And Paul Ryan gives us the ability to play offense,” Boehner continued, the source said.

Some GOP strategists have worried that Ryan’s placement on the ticket could hurt House Republicans down-ballot.

Ryan in 2011 wrote a budget that would have replaced the traditional pay-for-service Medicare system with subsidies provided to beneficiaries to purchase private insurance. In his 2012 budget, Ryan offered beneficiaries the choice of keeping traditional Medicare or moving to the new system, which Ryan says would cut Medicare’s costs.

Democrats and President Obama’s campaign have attacked the plan as a voucher system that would hurt Medicare and believe the issue could swing voters toward the president, particularly in states such as Florida.

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign has argued Obama’s healthcare law is raiding Medicare. Romney has said he supports Ryan’s plan but would institute his own plan for Medicare as president.

In picking the Wisconsin GOP lawmaker as his running mate, Boehner said that Romney “sent the signal that he's ready to provide the adult leadership the country wants, and ready to devote his presidency to confronting the debt that's crippling our economy.”

Boehner and other GOP leaders hold regular conference calls with rank-and-file members during recesses.

The Speaker noted Romney’s selection of Ryan as his running mate at the top of his remarks. This was Boehner’s first conference-wide call with lawmakers since Ryan joined the GOP ticket on Saturday.

Boehner's larger message on the conference call centered on the need for Republicans to stay “on offense” regarding “jobs and the economy.”

Approximately six lawmakers spoke during the 30-minute call, many in support of Romney’s vice-presidential pick, a source familiar with the call explained.

“Members piped up and said that jobs are number one and it's great that Ryan was picked, ‘he's one of us,’ ” the source said.