A few months ago, following terrific ACA enrollment numbers, the New York Times reported that Democrats were starting to walk with a spring in their step. “Obamacare” was finally succeeding, unemployment was dropping, and for a little icing on the cake, House Republicans were needlessly embracing a right-wing budget plan.
“Thank you, thank you Congressman Paul Ryan,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said.
Months later, Democrats aren’t done thanking Ryan – which is to say, they’re not done using Ryan’s far-right blueprint as a cudgel against congressional Republicans who voted for it.
In Arkansas, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is putting Rep. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) support for the Ryan budget to good use, and polls suggest Pryor may have an edge in his re-election bid. In Montana, appointed Sen. John Walsh (D) has an uphill fight ahead of him, so he’s using Rep. Steve Daines’ (R-Mont.) vote for the Ryan plan against him.
In Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is using Rep. Bill Cassidy’s (R) support for the Ryan budget as a key part of her campaign, and in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) launched her first critical ad of the cycle, hitting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) for having backed the Ryan budget, including its anti-Medicare provisions.
This week, McConnell’s campaign team offered a curious response to the criticism.
…McConnell’s 2011 vote was on a motion to proceed to consider the Ryan budget. The motion failed on a mostly party-line vote, so there was no Senate vote on the Ryan budget itself. The McConnell campaign said, “There is no way to speculate if [McConnell] would have voted for final passage without having debated amendments.”
Oh, I see. After having championed the Ryan budget, McConnell is now rolling out the “Who, me?” defense.
It’s deeply flawed for one big reason.
The Lundergan Grimes campaign unveiled a new web video this morning that shows McConnell on “Meet the Press,” specifically saying, “I voted for the Ryan budget.”
It’s a very brief excerpt, so to make sure the comment wasn’t taken out of context, I went back and checked the original transcript. Here’s the exchange between host David Gregory and McConnell, just days after the 2011 Senate vote on Paul Ryan’s far-right plan.
GREGORY: You haven’t even said publicly whether you’re for the Ryan plan. So you’re not behind that version of Medicare reform?McCONNELL: I voted for the – I, I voted for the Ryan budget this week.
Now the McConnell campaign would have voters believe there’s “no way to speculate” whether the Republican senator would have voted for the Ryan budget? He told a national television audience, “I voted for the Ryan budget.” There’s not a lot of ambiguity here.
Indeed, soon after McConnell went on Fox News and specifically touted Paul Ryan’s proposal to end Medicare and replace it with a voucher system. “Well, what Paul has done here is implement a premium support proposal at the end of the period, which is a very sensible way to go to try to save Medicare,” the Minority Leader said at the time.
McConnell may be embarrassed by this now, but it’s too late. His record is clear.