Political Notes – Chambliss, Isakson face tough vote on Medicare proposal

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Georgia Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson may have to make a very unpleasant decision later this week:  how to vote on the controversial budget plan crafted by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin that would phase out Medicare.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will call a Senate vote on the Ryan budget plan, which includes the Medicare provision, that House Republicans voted to adopt on April 15.

In the weeks since GOP House members effectively voted to end the Medicare program and replace it with insurance vouchers for senior citizens, there’s been a backlash among voters over the issue.

That pushback is being seen in upstate New York, where a special election is being held today for a U.S. House seat in a predominantly Republican district that was once represented by tax-cutting icon Jack Kemp.

When the campaign started, Republican Jane Corwin was the overwhelming favorite to retain the seat for the GOP.  After the House passed the Ryan plan on April 15, however, Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul began moving up in the polls after she started attacking Corwin for supporting the proposal.

In polls released last weekend, Hochul had taken a narrow lead over Corwin – a shocking development in such a conservative, Republican-leaning district.  Hochul’s comeback is being attributed largely to her support for Medicare and Corwin’s backing of the Ryan plan.

Even though Ryan’s budget plan will not be adopted in the Democratic-controlled Senate, Reid is calling a vote on it anyway to force Republican senators to take a stand on the controversial proposal.

Republican senators like Susan Collins of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts have already indicated they will vote against the Ryan plan.

It’s hard to determine which way Chambliss and Isakson will vote in it.  Their Washington offices would not respond to questions about the senators’ intentions for the upcoming vote.

Isakson did make a public statement last week excoriating Senate Democrats for not moving forward with their own budget plan.

“We have less than six months remaining until the start of the new fiscal year and the Senate has yet to produce a basic budget plan to substantively address our grave fiscal crisis,” Isakson said in a May 19 letter that he and other GOP senators sent to Reid.

“It’s time for colleagues on both sides of the aisle to demonstrate real leadership and work together to craft a fiscally responsible budget plan,” Isakson said in the letter, which did not mention Ryan’s proposal to phase out Medicare as a way to cut federal spending.

The House passed the Ryan budget and Medicare plan last month on a 235-193 party-line vote.  Georgia Republicans Rob Woodall, Lynn Westmoreland, Tom Price, Jack Kingston, Phil Gingrey, Austin Scott, Paul Broun, and Tom Graves voted for the Ryan plan.  Democrats John Barrow, Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, John Lewis, and David Scott voted against it.

Also in Washington

While the Beltway debate proceeds on budget and Medicare issues, Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed will be in Washington on other monetary matters:  trying to secure some federal  funds for the Savannah harbor dredging project.

Reed said in a civic club speech Monday that he and Deal will be meeting with cabinet-level officials next week to talk about the Savannah harbor project, among other things.

The Obama administration has not committed any funds for the harbor dredging and some of Deal’s own Republican colleagues, notably U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, have vowed they will oppose any attempts to earmark budget money for the project.

Designing a new tag

The state revenue department will try to find a suitable design for a new license plate through a contest open to the public.

The design contest started Monday and the revenue department will be accepting design proposals for vehicle tags through June 17.

“We want to embrace the artistic and creative talents of Georgia’s residents by asking for submissions that will provide an exciting new design to appear on millions of new general issue license plates,” Revenue Commissioner Douglas MacGinnitie said.

© 2011 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Johnny Isakson , Kasim Reed , Medicare , Nathan Deal , Paul Ryan , Savannah harbor , Saxby Chambliss