Saturday's World News on ABC highlighted complaints from Democrats about the Medicare reform plan proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan as the Wisconsin Republican seeks to restrain the growth of Medicare spending by having private insurers compete for seniors as customers.
Without delving into the Republican argument in favor of using private insurance, correspondent David Kerley recounted the complaints of angry constituents, showing clips audience members shouting at Republican members of Congress during town hall meetings. Kerley concluded by passing on Democratic hopes of the Medicare plan being a political "gift" that would hurt Republicans: "Democrats believe that Republicans have really handed them a gift with their vote to change Medicare. It's a vote that Democrats are already using in TV ads and fundraising calls as well."
Anchor David Muir then previewed an interview with Congressman Ryan for ABC's This Week show and brought aboard This Week host Christiane Amanpour, who ended up referring to claims that the Ryan budget proposal contains "drastic" cuts that other Republicans may need to back away from. After noting that Ryan is committed to the plan regardless of political consequences, Amanpour continued: "And many are now saying that perhaps the Republicans will start running away from the Ryan plan because of the drastic cuts he calls for in Medicare and Medicaid and other such programs."
By contrast, on Friday's Special Report with Bret Baier, FNC correspondent Jim Angle at least devoted a portion of his report explaining the theory behind how Ryan's Medicare plan could be beneficial:
JIM ANGLE: For those retiring in 2021 and later, instead of having the government pay directly for every medical expense, his plan would pay premiums to private insurance companies and force them to compete for seniors. But benefits would be greater for those poor or ill.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): More for those who have less, less for those who have more and doing it this way actually makes Medicare solvent.
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the April 30 World News Saturday on ABC:
DAVID MUIR: We turn to Washington, though, this evening, and members of Congress who during a visit home were bombarded with constituents who said hands off my Medicare. Here's David Kerley now.
DAVID KERLEY: Republican members of Congress got an earful. In Florida:
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1 IN AUDIENCE: Congressman why did you vote for a budget to privatize Medicare?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2 IN AUDIENCE: Because the country can't afford it! We can't afford it, moron!
KERLEY: Last night, even the Republican author of the budget plan, Wisconsin's Paul Ryan, was loudly criticized, forcing the Congressman to tell one man to leave the town hall meeting. The man left. The loud complaints about Ryan's budget plan are over Medicare, which - according to Democrats - would be turned into a voucher program. But only future seniors would be affected. In New Hampshire, a Tea Party freshman.
KERLEY: In Pennsylvania-
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1 IN AUDIENCE: You say nothing in the campaign about I'm going to change Medicare. Now you voted for a plan that will destroy Medicare.
KERLEY: It was a dramatic shift from the last time Republicans went home during a recess. Then they heard from Tea Party members and others who encouraged them to cut spending.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I want to know if it's coming out of my paycheck.
KERLEY: Despite the massive shift in tone, Republicans dismissed the suggestion that they were pummeled at home.
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The Republican position, is it controversial? Yes. But is it reality? Yes, it is. And we ought to stop playing politics and face up to reality.
AMY WALTER, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: They campaigned on cutting, but now, when they're coming home to talk about cutting, they also have to defend how difficult this cut is, especially when we're talking about Medicare.
KERLEY: Democrats believe that Republicans have really handed them a gift with their vote to change Medicare. It's a vote that Democrats are already using in TV ads and fundraising calls as well. David?
MUIR: David Kerley tonight. David, thanks so much. As you heard him report there, the architect of the Republican budget plan now generating so much controversy is Wisconsin Congrssman Paul Ryan. Ryan sat down for an interview with the host of ABC's This Week, Christiane Amanpour. And Christiane asked him about this growing heat he's taking.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: How do you feel about being made the bogey man in this budget business?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): I don't really think about it. I sleep well at night because, you know what, I know we have a debt crisis coming. We know we're going to have an economic collapse if we stay on the path we're on. And so, to me, it's unconscionable as an elected representative of the people to know that that's coming and not try to do something to prevent it from happening. And if it's bad politics, so be it.
MUIR: And so, let's bring in Christiane Amanpour. Always good to see you, Christiane, and it's really something to hear a politician say if it's bad politics, so be it. The question, is Ryan - and particularly, Republicans in general - really willing to take a hit politically here for this?
AMANPOUR: Well, it seems Ryan is. As you know, he's been working for years on this plan, and he's really devoted to it. We were at his district in Wisconsin where he was holding a town hall meeting. And, as you saw, other Congress people are facing a backlash from their constituents. And many are now saying that perhaps the Republicans will start running away from the Ryan plan because of the drastic cuts he calls for in Medicare and Medicaid and other such programs. But he seems very committed to it, saying that without this kind of thing, there will be a massive crisis.
MUIR: Congress knows we have to address this deficit. And so what about the Democrats? What's their counterplan?
AMANPOUR: Well, they, too, know that there has to be some kind of plan to rein in the debt and to really come up with a plan to overhaul entitlements. And already you hear Democrats say that they are going to call for cuts, meaningful cuts in spending in return for their vote on the debt ceiling, for instance.
MUIR: All right, Christiane, thanks so much with us tonight.
- Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center