By JOHN DiSTASO, News Editor
CONCORD — U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter Friday joined the ranking member of the U.S. House Budget Committee to blast Republican Paul Ryan’s budget plan as potentially “devastating” to poor and middle-income Granite Staters and to call it a defining issue in the 2014 elections.
The Democratic 1st District U.S. House member said that while Republicans are focusing on the Affordable Care Act in this election year, believing it will lead to GOP victories, she is “perfectly happy” to run on the law, which, she said, is “getting better” after a difficult rollout.
The Ryan budget, while it will not be taken up in the Senate and so stands no chance of becoming law, shows GOP priorities that favor the rich at the expense of working Granite Staters, she said.
Shea-Porter held a telephone news conference with U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the top Democrat on the budget committee, chaired by Republican Ryan.
The call was timed a day after the House passed the Ryan budget on a party line vote and the same day Republican potential presidential candidates U.S. Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz made stops in New Hampshire ahead of tomorrow’s “Freedom Summit,” sponsored by the conservative advocacy groups Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity Foundation, co-founded by the Koch brothers. Joining Cruz and Ryan tomorrow will be former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and business magnate Donald Trump.
Paul, Cruz and Huckabee are seriously considering running for President, while Trump has also been flirting with the notion. Ryan, who is also considering a presidential run, is making appearances Friday in first-caucus state Iowa.
Democrats are calling the Ryan plan the “Ryan-Koch” plan.
It was approved Thursday on a party line vote of 219-205, with 12 Republicans joining all Democrats opposed. The plan would balance the budget in 10 years by cutting taxes, repealing President Barack Obama’s health care law and cutting social programs in favor of the national defense.
While Republicans in New Hampshire and nationally are focusing on the Affordable Care Act as a way to try to win back control of the U.S. Senate and retain control of the House, Van Hollen and Shea-Porter warned that the Ryan budget shows what the GOP would prioritize should it retain the House and win the Senate.
Van Hollen said the Ryan agenda “hurts middle class families, hurts women and turns Medicare into a voucher program, reopens the prescription drug “doughnut hole” and will benefit billionaires like the Koch brothers. So the choice could not be more stark this November.”
According to a White House analysis of the Ryan budget, the plan would reopen the prescription drug donut hole for for 15,000 Granite State seniors, adding an average of about $1,200 in additional costs for prescription drug bills. It would decrease Pell Grant funding by $8.7 million and mean 1,560 fewer Granite State college students will receive them. It would also cut Head Start funding for 340 New Hampshire children, according to the White House analysis.
“It’s very much out of touch with where the country is, and it will be a defining issue,” Van Hollen said. “It lets the American people know where the Republican’s priorities are and what they would do if they had the power to impose their will.”
Shea-Porter said the Ryan budget shows Granite Staters “are facing a very serious choice in the mid-term election. In 2012, the people soundly rejected Paul Ryan and his budget. But instead of working across the aisle, they doubled down on the worst ideas.”
She cited cuts to “Means on Wheels, and student aid, and they are jeopardizing nursing home care, undermining key investments in job creation. It is just out of touch with the needs of average Americans.
“There will be far fewer college students receiving financial aid , and one of the question I hear the most is. ‘How do I send my children through college?’” Shea-Porter said.
Shea-Porter said her 2010 and 2012 opponent, former Rep. Frank Guinta is a supporter of Ryan. Guinta is running again for the seat and faces a GOP primary with former UNH business school dean Dan Innis.
Shea-Porter said “everything is changing now” on the ACA. “The rollout was rough but everything is getting better.” She noted that a former NHGOP chairman signed up for it and that Senate candidate Scott Brown was told by a GOP lawmaker that it was good for his family.
“I’m perfectly happy to stand on that and run on this health care law that is working and is consumer friendly,” Shea-Porter said. “I have never hidden the problems with it. I had quite a fight as many people know throughout the whole year with (the Department of Health and Human Services) to make this work, but it is getting better.”
“The budget,” were it to pass, would be a “huge problem for people,” she said. Traveling the district, she said, “the impact on New Hampshire is going to devastating on the budget.”
On the health care law, she said, “I think the stories show the concerns are lightening. People see the health care is getting better but the Ryan budget would make things worse for people,” Shea-Porter said.
“Democrats are not running away from the Affordable Care Act,” Van Hollen said. He said it provides Americans with “new economic security. For the first time if you lose your job, you don’t lose your health care.
“We are going to stress the kind of priorities we’re talking about that are reflected in this Republican budget. Budgets give votes a broad vision for the future of the country. It sets out their priorities.
“The main focus of this election is the question of what are your priorities and whose side are you on,” said Van Hollen. “We will tell people to read their budget. That tells you what they care about and don’t care about.”
Guinta campaign manager Ethan Zorfas responded, “Obamacare is getting better? Tell that to the 7,000 of her neighbors who can no longer use Frisbie Hospital in Rochester. Tell that to the 1,000 doctors who can no longer provide care to patients of many years. The Congresswoman should consider fulfilling her obligation as a member of Congress and hold open town halls instead of regurgitating Washington talking points crafted by Nancy Pelosi.”
The Guinta campaign has asked Shea-Porter to pledge to an open town hall in each county in the 1st Congressional District.
The key component of Ryan’s budget is Medicare. Ryan advocates changing form a guaranteed benefit into a “premium support” system that would provide seniors money to purchase health care in the private market. Ryan contends that the proposal will “save” Medicare for future retirees because the entitlement program faces long-term financial instability.
Democrats have used the proposal to campaign against GOP candidates in recent elections, accusing them of undermining a promise to America’s seniors. They intend to repeat that theme in 2014.
According to various reports, the plan would balance the budget in a decade with $5.1 trillion in cuts to social programs including food stamps, college loan programs and health care for the poor. It also calls for a 25 percent corporate tax rate and reducing the current tax bracket structure to just two: a 25 percent and 10 percent bracket.