March 21, 2013

Ryan Budget Passes the House with Support from All 13 Pennsylvania Republicans – Where have Pennsylvania’s moderates gone?

Jean Friday, President of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, released the following statement in reaction to the House of Representatives’ passage of the Ryan Budget earlier today:

“Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass Rep. Ryan’s Republican budget for 2014. Unfortunately, representatives who describe themselves as “moderates” joined their more openly conservative brethren in voting for this plan that guts Medicaid, dismantles the Medicare program, fast-tracks cuts to Social Security – all while increasing defense spending and giving $5.7 trillion in new tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.

“Here in Pennsylvania, we have a rich history of moderate Republicanism.  Senators like John Heinz and Arlen Specter were elected over and over again because of – not in spite of – their skill and commitment to compromise.  In a state that has voted for the Democratic Presidential nominee six straight times, it’s no wonder that many of today’s Republican officeholders, especially in the increasingly progressive suburbs of our big cities, claim to be a part of this moderate heritage. That’s why it is so disappointing that every single one of Pennsylvania’s Republican Congressmen voted for such an arch-conservative proposal as the Ryan Budget.

“Congressmen Tim Murphy, Jim Gerlach, Pat Meehan, Charlie Dent and Mike Fitzpatrick in particular have cultivated a moderate image.  But when do the facts and the spin become too disparate for that claim to be credible?  Take today’s vote for instance.  Seniors are ill-served by the ultra-conservative Ryan budget which decimates programs that seniors and the middle class rely on. According to the Center on Budget and Policy priorities, the Ryan Budget gets 66% of its spending cuts from programs like Medicaid and food stamps.  This budget breaks America’s promise to seniors and jeopardizes their health. By replacing Medicare’s guaranteed benefits with premium-support, or vouchers, that do not keep up with inflation, out-of-pocket health care costs would skyrocket. Also, raising the Medicare eligibility age in 2024 will leave 65 and 66 year olds out in the cold, uninsured and at the whim of the private market. Further, means-testing Medicare has the potential to force beneficiaries with incomes as little as $47,000 to pay higher premiums.  As if all of this weren’t conservative enough, the plan that these “moderates” voted for today jeopardizes nursing home care by slashing Medicaid funding by about $800 billion and repeals the Affordable Care Act, thereby eliminating state exchanges, free preventive screenings and drug discounts for Medicare beneficiaries. All told, this budget plan will bring us back to the day of poor houses and senior poverty above 50%.  And it does it all while promoting conservative ideas like increased spending on the military and more tax breaks for the wealthy.

“It’s all part of a disturbing trend.  To illustrate the point, we can look at the ARA Congressional Voting Record.  At the end of 2010, Congressmen Dent, Gerlach and Murphy all had lifetime scores in the 30s.  30% isn’t a great score, but it beats the 10-and-under crowd like Congressmen Shuster, Pitts or Thompson.  Fast forward to 2011, and all three received a ZERO for the year, along with other self-styled moderates Meehan and Fitzpatrick.  The 2012 Voting Record has not been released yet, but we expect this pattern to continue.

“On behalf of all PA seniors, who, regardless of party, want to see our representatives work together to find commonsense solutions to our economy and deficit, I would like to express disappointment that so many members of Congress who would have us believe they are pragmatic moderates missed a golden chance to put their rhetoric into action by opposing the Ryan Budget.  We hope that these members will, at some point in the near future, find a way to bolster their moderate credentials by voting for what’s best for seniors.”

The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, led by President Jean Friday of Westmoreland County, has over 300,000 members and 144 local affiliates across the Commonwealth.  PARA’s mission is to educate seniors and the public about retiree issues, and organize seniors to advocate for their interests in Harrisburg and Washington.  To learn more, visit www.pennretiredamericans.org

 

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