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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

'Mediscare' or not, Democrats try to widen criticism of Rubio

UPDATE 5:54 p.m.: Rubio's office responds. See the jump.

A liberal interest group organized a phone conference call this afternoon to blast Sen. Marco Rubio for his support of a plan to privatize Medicare, part of a national effort to capitalize on the politically sensitive issue.

"This is unconscionable," said Ellen Brown, a 76-year-old bookshop owner and Democrat in Tampa. She said the Republican plan would strip away new coverage for prescription drugs and other benefits under the new health care law. Studies have also shown seniors would pay thousands more under the voucher program.

Republicans say Democrats are scaring seniors for political gain, and Rubio went on the offensive today in an op/ed in the Miami Herald. He's only months into a 6-year term but the issue could be a problem for fellow Republicans in the 2012 elections.

Tony Fransetta, president of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans also criticized Rubio but said Democrats need to do more to shore up Medicare. "Democrats are sitting back more than they should," he said. "Too many of the Democrats have lockjaw while the Republicans have diarrhea of the mouth."

The call was organized by Protect Your Care, a political group formed to defend the new health care law. It said it would push the Medicare issue as presidential candidates come to Florida. Today, Tim Pawlenty said he backed the Republican proposal after evading a direct answer during a campaign stop in Florida on Tuesday.

Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos said:

“This is a prime example of everything that’s wrong with American politics today.  Yesterday, courageous leaders like Senator Rubio stepped up to save Medicare.  And today, the political hacks and demagogues came out to spew their lies and partisan venom all over the place, without so much as offering a single idea that would actually save Medicare for current retirees like Marco’s 80-year old mother or future retirees.  If you have no plan to save Medicare and have nothing better to do with your time than host conference calls and send attack releases against the only plan to save Medicare, Senator Rubio challenges them to either put up their own plan to save Medicare, or go home.”

[Last modified: Thursday, May 26, 2011 6:55pm]

    

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