By Ian Swanson - 04/18/11 01:45 PM EDT
The White House is using the two-week congressional recess to try to seize momentum in its spending fight with House Republicans.
In a series of interviews with local media and at appearances across the country, President Obama will push the argument that Republicans would end Medicare “as we know it” by turning it into a voucher program in which seniors would be provided with a government subsidy to buy health insurance from private companies.
With the attacks on Medicare, Obama hopes to put the GOP on defense as Congress nears a July deadline for raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion deficit. Republicans want to impose steep spending cuts in exchange for their agreeing to raise the debt limit.
The White House believes the GOP is vulnerable to attacks on Medicare because of Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) 2012 spending plan, which was approved by the House on Friday on a party-line vote. No Democrats voted in favor of it.
Democrats, who lost public support during the battle over Obama’s healthcare law, which some Republicans suggested would lead to “death panels” determining who would get treatment, think they can turn the tables on the GOP with the popular Medicare program.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) over the weekend suggested Republicans had gone beyond the political mandate they won in the 2010 election with their attacks on Medicare.
Ryan has suggested the proposed changes to Medicare could hurt the GOP, warning before his budget was made public that Democrats would use it as a “political weapon.”
His prediction came true last week, when Obama used a speech on the deficit to attack the Ryan budget as changing the social compact between government and citizens in the U.S.
But some Republicans think Obama could end up losing in the fight over the GOP's budget. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) said Monday that Obama’s attacks are “great for the GOP,” as they only serve to elevate Ryan.
Obama continued the attack that began with his deficit speech with his weekly radio address, in which he scolded Republicans for presenting a budget that would cut spending on programs that benefit the poor and elderly while reducing taxes for business and the wealthy.
“It’s a vision that says that in order to reduce the deficit, we have to end Medicare as we know it, and make cuts to Medicaid that would leave millions of seniors, poor children and Americans with disabilities without the care they need,” Obama said.
“I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think it’s right to ask seniors to pay thousands more for healthcare, or ask students to postpone college, just so we don’t have to ask those who have prospered so much in this land of opportunity to give back a little more."
Obama is scheduled to spend Monday giving interviews to television stations in Denver; Raleigh, N.C.; Dallas; and Indianapolis. Guidance from the White House press office says Obama will “discuss his vision for reducing our debt and bringing down our deficit, based on the values of shared responsibility and shared prosperity.”
In recent months the president has stepped up his work with local reporters as part of an effort to sell his message more directly to voters.
On Tuesday, Obama will participate in a town hall in Virginia to discuss his plans to reduce the deficit. He will also hold more town halls on the same subject in California and Nevada, including one on Facebook.