Schumer: Medicare Will "Define" 2012

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    Schumer said Medicare will be a “defining issue” in 2012

    Sen. Chuck Schumer says the House budget vote this week is a lose-lose situation for Senate Republicans, promising the Democrats will make the vote a key issue in 2012.

    Schumer said Medicare will be a “defining issue” in 2012, pointing to the success Democrat Kathy Hochul has had in the traditionally Republican 26th House District of New York. She’s up 4 points ahead of Tuesday’s special election.

    “We will exhibit this issue as an example of why we need to keep the Senate Democratic in order to counter House Republicans. We will point to this week and say the Republicans tried to end Medicare but a Democratic majority stopped it in the Senate. It’s that simple.”

    If Republicans vote for it, they tie themselves with ending Medicare, the New York Democrat told reporters on Monday. They vote against it, they help Democrats say the plan is extreme.

    “Republicans are getting the worst of both worlds,” Schumer said. “They want to distance themselves from this vote but there is no face-saving way to do so. They have tried to turn themselves into pretzels to figure out how to deal with this awful plan introduced by the House.”

    He said the fact that Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not whipping the vote speaks volumes about the political fallout for voting for the plan.

    “Leader McConnell is a very, very smart man and he’s not one who simply lets the chips fall where they may when it comes to big votes in the Senate,” he said. “But he knows the danger afoot.”

    On Sunday, the plan’s architect, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, said he understands politicians are scared of entitlement reform “because every time you put entitlement reform out there, the other party uses it as a political weapon.”

    “But here’s our problem … if we don’t get serious about these issues, if we don’t get serious about the drivers of our debt, we’re going to have a debt crisis,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The irony of this all is if we don’t fix these programs, people who rely on these benefits are going to be hurt the worst” and cut first in a debt crisis.

    This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 5:32 p.m. on May 23, 2011.