The decision by House Republicans to double down on Paul Ryan’s 2011 budget with a similar proposal in 2012 gives both sides a chance to re-fight the epic battle that accompanied its release last year.
Both sides admit the battle over the Republican budget plan passed out of the House last month — which is remarkably similar to the plan the House passed last year — will have plenty in common with the Ryan budget fight of 2011.
Republicans pointed this out with a good deal of snark. Democrats, meanwhile, are thrilled. Here’s the RNC take, from a web video dropped late Wednesday afternoon:
“What the past year has affirmed for Chairman Paul Ryan is that those he serves are smarter than the president thinks they are,” one Ryan aide told TPM. “Americans deserve to be spoken to like adults about our nation’s pressing fiscal and economic challenges. Americans demand honest solutions and principled leadership to confront the debt-fueled economic crisis staring us in the face. Ryan believes firmly that the president’s efforts to divide Americans and distort the truth will not be able to distract them from his failed leadership.”
Democrats say the attacks are similar because the budgets themselves are similar — and many believe they zeroed in on the GOP’s plans for Medicare to great effect last time around. By the end of the 2011 battle, Republicans were bruised and battered and Democrats picked up an unexpected House win in New York.
It makes sense, Dems reason, that Obama’s speeches sound the same. Pointing out the similarity in the rhetoric may not be the best move for the GOP.
“What’s the definition of insanity? Repeatedly trying the same thing and getting a different result,” Jesse Ferguson, spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told TPM. “The basic reality is, Republicans lost any of their ability to credibly make their case the moment they protected the tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy in the budget. Voters know it’s not a fight about cutting spending, they know it’s a debate about spending priorities.”
“We do know from many pieces of data that the issue is as potent today as it was before,” Jef Pollock, a Democratic strategist who worked on Hochul’s campaign, told TPM. “It has great resonance out there and the Republicans have decided instead of trying to fix their problem to double down.”
Democrats’ bravado hasn’t dissuaded the 2012 field from embracing the House GOP’s move, though. Romney seems perfectly happy to have a fight with Obama and Democrats over the Ryan budget. He’s tied himself to the plan and proudly campaigned with Ryan, who endorsed him recently.
While the basic dynamics of the fight are the same in 2012, there are signs that the GOP has learned a thing or two about selling its plan’s more politically explosive elements. Many conservatives were infuriated in 2011 when Democrats trumpeted that it would “end Medicare as we know it.” This time around, Republicans decided to go on offense early in order to muddy the waters. Parodying a video by a liberal group last year that depicted Republicans throwing a senior citizen over a cliff, a conservative group kicked off this year’s budget release with a slick parody in which Obama is the one heaving grandma.
National Republicans now frequently accuse Democrats of trying to dismantle entitlements, citing both Democrats’ unwillingness to stabilize the program’s finances with spending cuts and, paradoxically, Obama’s decision to cut Medicare Advantage spending and create an independent panel to limit the growth of health care costs as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Romney, in particular, has employed this tactic the most aggressively in recent weeks.
“In over three years, he has failed to enact or even propose a serious plan to solve our entitlement crisis,” Romney said in a speech on Wednesday. “Instead, he has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it.”
It’s not the most coherent argument to put it mildly — Obama won’t get serious about cutting Medicare, but also is cutting Medicare too much — but it at least creates a rhetorical roadblock Democrats have to leap over first to get to the Ryan budget.
Republicans also think they’ve gained at least some ground in the press after a year of selling their budget plan to voters. Many were heartened when Politifact, in a decision condemned by Democrats and a number of policy experts, named the claim that “Republicans want to end Medicare” its Lie of the Year.
Benjy Sarlin contributed reporting.