A message from CREDO Action:
Democrats have been vocal in their opposition to the Republican attacks on Medicare. But even as recently as this week, major media outlets were speculating about whether Democrats would agree to severe cuts to Medicaid as part of a compromise with Republicans on raising the debt ceiling.
Fortunately, Democratic senators are working to put that fear to rest.
On Thursday, Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, a leading defender of Medicaid, announced that thirty-six other senators joined him in sending a letter to President Obama vowing to oppose the Republican attacks on Medicaid.
Republican extremists in the House and the Senate have consistently pursued a strategy of hostage-taking around "must-pass" bills. When it came to this year's continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown, the Democrats caved and gave up far too much.
And now, the Republicans are trying the same strategy around raising the debt ceiling, which is necessary to avoid the U.S. Treasury defaulting on our debts.
The stakes in this fight are much higher than the fight over the continuing resolution. And predictably the Republicans are making extreme and irresponsible demands. Democrats cannot continue to cave, and the first step is drawing a line in the sand and declaring some things off limits.
The Rockefeller letter has the effect of declaring off limits the Republican proposals to turn Medicaid into block grants or to arbitrarily limit federal spending on Medicaid.
Sen. Rockefeller and the 36 Democrats who co-signed his letter to President Obama were forceful in their defense of the program, writing (emphasis added):
Since 1965, the federal government has helped states pay for the basic health care and long-term services low-income Americans need. A cap on federal funding or block grant would undermine this federal commitment. We are unwilling to allow the federal government to walk away from Medicaid's 68 million beneficiaries, the providers that serve them and the urban and rural communities in which they live.
Medicaid, which covers 68 million beneficiaries, is a cornerstone of our health care system. Besides covering poor children and their parents, pregnant woman, and the disabled, Medicaid is also a major source of health care funding for seniors — paying, for example, for the nursing care of two-thirds of nursing home residents.
To be sure, this fight is not over. But, this is a promising start. Ever since New York Democrat Kathy Hochul improbably won a recent special election in a conservative district by running a campaign centered on defending Medicare, we have seen Democrats increasingly willing to take cuts to Medicare off the table. But Medicaid has always been more politically vulnerable than Medicare.
This letter is a meaningful signal that Democrats are strengthening their resolve to defend Medicaid. And we should make sure they know we support them picking this fight.
Thank you for defending our social safety net.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager CREDO Action from Working Assets
P.S. Click here to read the letter Sen. Rockefeller and 36 other Senate Democrats sent to President Obama.