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'Bass, Guinta like GOP budget-cutting plan'

Last modified: 4/17/2011 12:00:00 AM
U.S. Reps. Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta stuck with their party on Friday as House Republicans adopted a plan to reduce the national debt through cuts to discretionary spending and reforms to health-care entitlement programs.

Guinta had already voted for the plan in the Budget Committee, while Bass signed on for the first time last week. The plan was proposed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who says it would reduce projected deficits by $4.4 trillion over the next decade.

It calls for transforming Medicaid into a block grant to states, giving them greater leeway with how the spend the money, and changing Medicare into a defined contribution plan for people under 55. The government would contribute a specific sum toward the premium for a health insurance plan, rather than directly reimbursing doctors and hospitals.

The Congressional Budget Office analyzed the proposal and concluded it would leave seniors paying a higher portion of their health-care costs in coming year, though it conceded that health-care costs are difficult to predict. Not a single Democrat voted for the plan.

The state's two congressmen told us recently that the Ryan budget is as honest as they come. Guinta described it as a 'fact-based budget' that would send 'a very strong and serious message to the nation that we are going to take on the out-of-control spending that's occurred.' Bass said the proposal is 'an honest attempt to be truthful and tell it like it is.'

Guinta said the changes to entitlements aren't just part of confronting the deficit. He said the proposal lays out a way to salvage the programs themselves: 'It does something I think is very important. It saves Medicare and

Medicaid.'

Guinta disputed the CBO report projecting that seniors would pay more for their health care as the value of the premium subsidy shrinks over time.

'What will happen is the carriers are going to have to compete for individual's business, just like they do right now for members of Congress,' he said. 'It's more of a market-based approach, and that's a good thing to drive prices down and costs down and to give individuals more freedom with regard to their health care choices.'

Guinta also praised proposals to reduce the top tax rate for people and businesses from 35 percent to 25 percent, saying the decrease would help make American businesses competitive.

Bass acknowledged that some of the cuts could be hard, but he said they would set federal spending on a better course. He said every federal expenditure, from entitlements to defense spending, should be on the table for possible reduction.

'I believe it's a budget that moves this country in the direction that it needs to go,' he said. 'As painful as some of it might be, I think Americans across the country said last fall they wanted to elect people who had the courage to face issues honestly and transparently and truthfully.'

The proposal is not expected to have a prayer in the Democrat-controlled Senate. It won't have the support of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, who released a statement calling the plan neither comprehensive nor responsible. To reduce the debt, Shaheen said, lawmakers also must address defense spending and revenue.

'In addition, it would be irresponsible to privatize Medicare, shifting billions of dollars in health car costs to seniors while doing nothing to reduce the fundamental cost of care,' Shaheen said.

Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, meanwhile, called the plan a 'substantive proposal that initiates a serious discussion about how to get our fiscal house in order.'

Democrats are already gunning to use the proposal in the 2012 campaign. A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Guinta and Bass had 'sold out New Hampshire seniors by ending Medicare and leaving them with the bill.'

Ann McLane Kuster, campaigning again in the 2nd District, echoed the cry, saying Bass had voted 'to end Medicare as we know it in order to make room for a dramatic tax cut on big corporations.'

Tea Party spy?

A group of political activists formed by students at Plymouth State University says their meeting to plan a State House protest was infiltrated by the Tea Party.

Students 4 Sanity, who marched in protest of Friday's Tea Party rally, cite a blog post on nhteapartycoalition.org that appears to indicate that the author attended a group meeting last month. Students 4 Sanity advocates government funding for education and youth-centered issues.

'On March 15th I attended an organizational meeting of some activist students at PSU,' the post read. 'They are planning to hold a counter rally at the Tea Party Rally in Concord scheduled for April 15th.'

The post adds that the group is 'concentrating on educational issues - Pell Grants, increases in tuition' and says the police were notified about the students' plan.

In a statement, Students 4 Sanity President Elyse Sedgley said, 'It is inconceivable that the New Hampshire Tea Party would resort to the tactics of J. Edgar Hoover and try to infiltrate an activist student group.'

Sedgley said about 18 people attended the March meeting, and she did not recognize some attendees. The group is trying to figure out who might have been a Tea Partier.

Fair warning

When Attorney General Michael Delaney presented his department's budget last week to the state Senate Finance Committee, he offered a bit of advice. As budget writers look to cut costs, he said, they might be wary of eliminating department attorneys, each of whom serves a five-year term approved by the Executive Council.

Delaney said existing case law suggests that those contracts grant the attorneys a contractual property right, though the law allows them to be removed for a number of reasons, such as the good of the department. He said there is no precedent on whether the need to reduce the budget would count.

'I just want to alert you I think that's something that would likely be litigated,' Delaney said. And he told the budget writers that the remaining attorneys in the Department of Justice probably wouldn't be able to present the case, leaving the Executive Council to hire its own counsel.

'When you add up those costs and balance them, I do think that's a conversation that probably warrants more discussion,' he said.

Still, Delaney said, he was uncomfortable with a scenario in which the department lays off staff members but no attorneys.

He told budget writers his department might be a good place for 'back of the budget' cuts that would create more flexibility in reducing personnel costs.

Squabble over tea

In the middle of last week, a political blog of the Washington Post described a divide in how New Hampshire Republicans view the Tea Party. While new activists see Tea Party power behind the 2010 electoral blowout, the Post asserts, the party establishment - namely former state chair John H. Sununu and his sons - describe the movement as little more than rebranding.

The article quotes Andrew Hemingway, chairman of the state Republican Liberty Caucus, saying Sununu has a style that doesn't resonate with the Tea Party.

'Even when he was chairman, he never came to a Tea Party event, he never supported the Tea Party, I don't think he ever met with them even after multiple requests,' Hemingway is quoted as saying.

Three days later, Hemingway issued a press release accusing the reporter of making up his quote and warning Republicans to be careful dealing with press because 'some members are trying to invent a story line of party discord that simply is not true.'

Hemingway wrote that he was having a 'casual conversation' with the Washington Post reporter when he mentioned that he did not remember outreach between Sununu and the Tea Party.

'The reporter used this conversation to fabricate a quotation that made it seem as though the governor denied requests to meet with the Tea Party,' Hemingway wrote. In fact, he wrote, Sununu welcomed the Tea Party and met with the previous Liberty Caucus chair.

In an interview, Hemingway said was upset because the article quoted him saying things he hadn't. He said he had reached out to the reporter afterward but had not heard back.

'There isn't a wedge, there isn't a divisiveness in the party, and I don't want to be the cause of people thinking there is,' Hemingway said.

When we asked the reporter, Rachel Weiner, on Friday about Hemingway's claim, she said it was the first she had heard of it. Weiner said Hemingway had e-mailed her since the article was published without mentioning the article or the quote.

'The quote is accurate,' Weiner said in an e-mail. 'When we spoke, he knew I was a reporter writing a story and never asked to be off the record.'

No lie!

Democrats and comedians have co-opted the line used by an aide to Sen. Jon Kyl to explain away the Arizona Republican's claim that 'well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does' is related to abortion. Planned Parenthood says 3 percent of its services relate to abortion.

Asked about it, a Kyl spokesman said the remark 'was not intended to be a factual statement' but to illustrate that Planned Parenthood subsidizes abortions.

TV satirist Stephen Colbert wasn't going to let that one lie, and after mocking the line on The Colbert Report, he lit up Twitter with less-than-factual statements like 'Jon Kyl sponsored S.410, which would ban happiness and 'Jon Kyl claims the craziest thing he's ever done was that time he ate pancakes for dinner.'

This week, Shaheen stepped in. Speaking with other Democratic woman senators, Shaheen said attempts to strip Planned Parenthood's federal funding are an attack on women's reproductive health care. 'And that was intended to be a factual statement,' she said.

Primary calendar

With Florida Republican leaders looking for an early presidential primary date, local Democrats are asking state Republican Chairman Jack Kimball to speak up.

Both national parties agreed to rules that give Florida a March primary date, while allowing Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to hold their nominating contests earlier. But GOP leaders in Florida are proposing they call a committee to set a date for the primary. State law currently sets the primary for Jan. 31, which would make it first.

On Friday in Orlando, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Iowa and New Hampshire should remain first. Earlier in the day, Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democrats, said Kimball and the leading presidential contenders need to speak up on the primary primacy.

'If Jack Kimball, Romney, (Haley) Barbour, (Rick) Santorum and (Tim) Pawlenty are not willing to stand up for New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary and New Hampshire is forced to hold it in the week before Christmas, it would be a terrible disservice to the voters, the candidates and the media who cover it,' Buckley said.

State GOP spokeswoman Christina Baratta said Kimball is 'doing a number of things behind the scenes, including working closely with the RNC, many other state chairmen and potential presidential candidates.'

'Unfortunately for Ray Buckley, we don't share those details with him,' nor would we,' Baratta said.

She said she was confident Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will convince Florida to follow the rules.

(Monitor staff writer Matthew Spolar contributed to this column. Karen Langley can be reached at 369-3316 or klangley@cmonitor.com.)


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