By Alexander Bolton - 05/25/11 07:20 PM EDT
Two GOP rising stars — seen as potential presidential candidates in 2016 — will vote for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan despite warnings it could prove a political liability.
Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will cast yes votes for the House-passed budget blueprint when the Senate considers it Wednesday afternoon.
The lawmakers recognize that the Ryan budget plan doesn’t have a chance of passing and that Democrats will use it to accuse them of trying to dismantle Medicare, but they say the fallout of voting against it would be worse.
Democrats successfully used public pushback against Ryan's proposed Medicare overhaul to
pull an upset victory in New York’s 26th District special election on
Tuesday. And they have made no secret of the fact they intend to use Medicare on the campaign trail throughout the 2012 cycle.
But Rubio said, “I’ll vote for any plan that saves Medicare, doesn’t hurt current beneficiaries like my mom and doesn’t raise taxes. Right now it’s the only plan out there that does that."
Rubio, who in representing Florida has many senior-citizen constituents, rejected the notion that supporting the Ryan plan could be a liability if he seeks higher office. His name has been floated as a potential presidential running mate in 2012 or a White House contender in 2016.
“The only people who have a liability around here are the people who are going to let Medicare go bankrupt,” Rubio said after leaving a GOP meeting in the Capitol Wednesday afternoon. “And anyone in this building who pretends that Medicare can continue to move forward the way it is now is a liar. And anyone in this building that doesn’t have a plan to save Medicare is in favor of bankrupting Medicare.”
Thune said future presidential candidates would have to explain why they didn’t take action to try to save Medicare.
“If I had those aspirations, I think the worst place you want to be was in the place where you didn’t try to do something to fix it,” Thune said.
“If you’re looking to convince people in this country that you’re the person to lead the country and solve problems, I think the one thing you’d want to demonstrate is a record of having made the hard votes to do that,” he added.
Thune was considered the Senate’s most promising potential candidate for the 2012 presidential campaign before he ruled out a bid. Thune is still thought of as a viable contender in 2016 if President Obama wins a second term.
Newt Gingrich, one of the GOP’s current crop of White House hopefuls, stumbled earlier this month when he dismissed Ryan’s plan as “right-wing social engineering.”
Gingrich scrambled to downplay and apologize for the comments, but Republican political insiders said it dealt a serious blow to his presidential aspirations.