By Sam Baker - 01/31/12 07:48 PM EST
Democrats took their Medicare fight to Mitt Romney on Tuesday, just hours before polls close in the crucial Florida primary.
Romney drew sharp criticism from the left after telling a crowd of Florida seniors that he would protect entitlement programs. Romney has endorsed a Medicare plan similar to Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) proposal that would partially privatize Medicare and significantly reduce federal spending.
“This plan would be a disaster for seniors here in Florida and across the country,” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said during a conference call with reporters.
Romney said at a Florida seniors’ center Monday night that he would preserve entitlement programs.
“We will never go after Medicare or Social Security,” Romney said. “We will protect those programs.”
Wasserman Schultz said the promise was pandering.
“That’s what Mitt Romney may say to a group of seniors here in Florida, but … it’s patently dishonest,” she said.
Romney also criticized President Obama for Medicare cuts in the healthcare reform law.
“There’s only one president in history that’s cut Medicare $500 billion, and that’s Barack Obama,” Romney said. “And guess what he did it for? He did it to pay for ObamaCare.”
Romney’s rhetoric on entitlements also drew some more friendly fire. Former GOP Rep. Joe Scarborough (Fla.) slammed Romney on MSNBC's “Morning Joe” Tuesday.
“That is the most shameful demagoguery that I have heard on the campaign trail yet this year,” Scarborough said. “It’s just unspeakable. It is unspeakable because this country is going bankrupt.”
Medicare has proven to be a political winner for Democrats, who seized on Ryan’s plan last year and are eager for another shot when he releases his budget proposal next month.
“It is a popular, successful program and it is a sacred trust between generations,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Sandwiched between Romney’s campaign stop and the DNC’s response, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday that federal spending on healthcare is likely to double over the next decade, fueling “unsupportable” federal debt. The fund that pays for Medicare’s hospital benefits will run out of money in the next 10 years, the CBO said.