Dennis Rehberg On Medicare

Cut, Cap, & Balance

Rehberg Claimed House “Cut, Cap, and Balance” Bill Would “Explicitly Protect Spending for Social Security, Medicare and Veterans.” According to the Missoulian, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) criticized Rehberg’s vote for the House “cut, cap and balance” bill, saying the legislation would “lead to severe cuts in important programs, like infrastructure, education and Medicare.” Rehberg “dismissed the criticism as ‘scare tactics and divisiveness,’ and noted that the House plan explicitly protects spending for Social Security, Medicare and veterans.” [Missoulian, 7/20/11]

Rehberg Voted for “Cut, Cap, Balance” Legislation, Forcing Deep Cuts to Social Security and Medicare. On July 19, 2011, Rehberg voted for the “Cut, Cap and Balance” legislation that was introduced by House Republicans as a plan to manage the debt ceiling crisis. The legislation would allow the government to raise the debt ceiling, but only after big and immediate spending cuts, a cap on future spending and adoption of a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. The plan would cap federal spending at 18 percent of the previous year’s gross domestic product, which marks the first time the federal budget has been under that mark in more than four decades. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the cap would “lock in cuts over the next ten years at least as severe as those in the Ryan budget plan that the House passed in April” which, according to Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo, is a “formula for slashing spending at an epic clip, and, invariably, for devastating key safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid”. Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, called the [constitutional] amendment “the most irresponsible action imaginable” because the amendment “would virtually ensure that an economic downturn would end up as a deep depression, by erasing any real ability of the government to pursue countercyclical fiscal policies and in fact demanding the opposite, at the worst possible time.” [Roll Call 606, H 2560, 07/19/2011; Center On Budget and Policy Priorities, 7/16/11; CNN Money, 3/29/11; Talking Points Memo, 7/18/11]

Cut, Cap, & Balance Bill Would Kill 700,000 Jobs, Mandate Severe Cuts to Social Security and Medicare. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the measure would not directly cut Medicare or Social Security but “it would be inconceivable…that policymakers would meet the bill’s severe annual spending caps through automatic across-the-board cuts year after year… Reaching and maintaining a balanced budget in the decade ahead while barring any tax increases would necessitate deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.” In addition, The immediate $111 billion reduction in spending would equal 0.7% of the 2012 projected gross domestic product and “and would thus cause the loss of roughly 700,000 jobs in the current weak economy, relative to what the number of jobs otherwise would be.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 7/15/11]

According to the CBPP, Only Arch-Conservative Republican Study Committee’s Budget Would Have Met Cut, Cap & Balance Requirements; Budget Would Severely Cut Medicare and Medicare; Would Have Raised Retirement Age to 70. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “the only budget that comes close to meeting the requirements of these constitutional amendments is the Republican Study Committee budget, which eliminates 70 percent of non-defense discretionary funding by 2021, contains deeper Medicare cuts than the Ryan budget, cuts Medicaid, food stamps, and Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled poor in half by the end of the decade, and raises the Social Security retirement age to 70.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 7/15/11]

Center On Budget and Policy Priorities: Cut Cap and Balance Would Cut Programs for Poor While Protecting Tax Breaks and Tax Subsidies for Wealthy and Powerful. According to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “The bill overturns a feature of various bipartisan budget laws over the past quarter century, by subjecting programs for the poorest Americans to the specter of meat-axe across-the-board cuts. It does so even as it protects tax breaks and tax subsidies for the wealthy and powerful by erecting a constitutional barrier to any measure that would raise any revenue.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 7/15/11]

Center On Budget and Policy Priorities: Under Cut Cap and Balance, “An Impoverished Elderly Widow Living On Supplemental Security Income—Which Provides Benefits That Lift People To Just 75 Percent Of The Poverty Line—Could Have Her Assistance Cut Back Under The Measure’s Across-The-Board Budget Cuts Even As Millionaire Hedge-Fund Managers Retained Their Lucrative Carried-Interest Tax Breaks. “According The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Adding to the extreme nature of the measure, the legislation also reverses a feature of every law of the past quarter-century that has contained a fiscal target or standard enforced by across-the-board cuts. Since the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law of1985, all such laws have exempted the core basic assistance programs for the poorest Americans from such across-the-board cuts “Cut, Cap, and Balance,” by contrast, specifically subjects all such programs to across-the-board cuts if its spending caps would be exceeded. It does so even as it seeks to erect a constitutional firewall to safeguard tax cuts and tax breaks for the most well-off Americans. Thus, an impoverished elderly widow living on Supplemental Security Income—which provides benefits that lift people to just 75 percent of the poverty line—could have her assistance cut back under the measure’s across-the-board budget cuts even as millionaire hedge-fund managers retained their lucrative carried-interest tax breaks.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 7/15/11]

Rehberg Claimed Cut, Cap, & Balance Act Would “[Protect] Funding for Social Security, Medicare and Veterans.” In a press release touting his vote in favor of the “cut, cap, and balance” bill, Rehberg claimed the measure would protect funding for Social Security, Medicare, and Veterans. “Cut, Cap and Balance provides a framework to restore some fiscal sanity in our country, while at the same time protecting funding for Social Security, Medicare and veterans. Within this framework, I’ll continue to fight for funding priorities that work for Montana and make government more efficient and accountable. And I will also continue to protect Social Security and Medicare.” [Rehberg Release, 7/19/11]

After Voting for ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’ Rehberg Claimed He Would “Continue to Protect Social Security and Medicare.” In a press release following his vote in favor of the “cut, cap, and balance” bill, Rehberg claimed he would continue to protect Social Security and Medicare: “Within this framework, I’ll continue to fight for funding priorities that work for Montana and make government more efficient and accountable. And I will also continue to protect Social Security and Medicare.” [Rehberg Release, 7/19/11]

Privatization and Competition

Rehberg Voted In Favor Of Requiring Medicare Program To Compete Against Private Plans. In 2003, Rehberg voted—with a unanimous Republican bloc—against calling for the House-Senate conferees on the Medicare prescription drug bill to adopt a Senate- passed provision calling for a government-run “fallback” drug benefit in areas where fewer than two private plans offered drug coverage. The vote was on a Michaud (D-ME) motion, which Rehberg voted against, to instruct House conferees to reject a provision in the House bill. [Vote #502, 9/10/2003; National Journal’s CongressDaily, 9/11/03]

2003: Rehberg Voted In Favor Of Provisions That Would Privatize Medicare. In 2003, Rehberg voted against a motion that would, according to States News Service, instruct conferees working on the Medicare prescription drug coverage bill “to abandon provisions that would privatize Medicare.” According to States News Service, motion proponents “argued that Congress has a duty, through Medicare, to care for America’s senior and disabled citizens.” The vote was on a Brown (D-OH) motion, which Rehberg voted against, to instruct House conferees to disagree with a portion of the House bill. [Vote #573, 10/28/2003; States News Service, 10/31/03]

2003: Rehberg Voted To Require Medicare To Compete With Private Plans. In 2003, during debate on the Medicare prescription drug bill, Rehberg voted in favor of provisions that would require the traditional Medicare program to compete with private plans by 2010. The vote was on a Hooley (D-OR) motion, which Rehberg voted against, to instruct House conferees to reject provisions in the House version of the Medicare bill. [Vote #650, 11/20/2003]