By Meghashyam Mali - 08/12/12 10:34 PM EDT
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Sunday came to the defense of his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposals to reform Medicare, denying they would gut the program, as Democrats allege.
“There's only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call ‘ObamaCare,’” said Romney, hitting back at President Obama in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” scheduled to air Sunday night.
“What Paul Ryan and I have talked about is saving Medicare, is providing people greater choice in Medicare, making sure it's there for current seniors,” Romney continued. “No changes, by the way, for current seniors, or those nearing retirement. But looking for young people down the road and saying, ‘We're going to give you a bigger choice.’”
Ryan also defended his Medicare reform plans against charges that the GOP ticket would lose support from seniors worried they could lose benefits under an overhaul.
“My mom is a Medicare senior in Florida,” Ryan said. “Our point is we need to preserve their benefits, because government made promises to them that they've organized their retirements around. In order to make sure we can do that, you must reform it for those of us who are younger.”
Since his selection as Romney’s running mate Saturday, Democrats have made Ryan’s proposals as House Budget Committee chairman a centerpiece of their attacks, claiming his spending cuts and tax overhaul would hit the poor hardest and that his proposed changes to Medicare would kill the program.
The Obama campaign launched a new website Saturday and unveiled a Web video hammering Ryan on his plans and working to tie them to Romney.
Ryan’s budget plan would cut $5 trillion in spending, overhaul the tax code by eliminating loopholes and pushing for lower overall rates, and shift Medicare to a subsidized private-insurance model.
He would allow those 55 and under to opt out of the current Medicare system but would not change the program for seniors who are already enrolled.
President Obama, in remarks at a fundraiser in Chicago, called Ryan a “decent man” and a “family man” but said he backed “top down” economic policies and had a vision “I fundamentally disagree with.”
Senior campaign adviser David Axelrod on the Sunday shows called Ryan a “right-wing ideologue” and said his Medicare reform proposals were a “Trojan horse” to destroy the program.
Axelrod defended the administration’s own work to better Medicare, citing a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report which he said found Obama had “added eight years to the life of Medicare.” Axelrod also touted the White House’s efforts to cut fraud and waste in the program.
“Everybody knows that there is a lot of waste there that we can get at, but what we don't want to do is turn it into a bonanza for the insurance companies with the cost of it being borne by senior citizens, and that's what would happen if we followed, if we followed Congressman Ryan's road map,” he said.