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PolitiFact: Senator fully flops on Medicare changes

The stance

On whether he would vote for the budget proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.

The ruling

The Ryan budget — which would make deep spending cuts, hold the line on taxes and significantly change Medicare for those younger than 55 — has become a key partisan battleground.

Democrats have made the dangers of Ryan's proposed changes to Medicare a major talking point, seeking to pin Republicans down on whether they support Ryan's vision.

First, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich prompted a media firestorm for seeming to change his position on the Ryan plan. We rated Gingrich's position a Full Flop.

Now, Sen. Scott Brown — the Republican who won a special election in 2010 to fill the Massachusetts seat long held by the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy — is attracting attention for his own possible flip-flop.

According to the Newburyport Daily News in northeastern Massachusetts, Brown made reference to the Ryan plan during an annual luncheon of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry on May 13.

"The leaders will bring forward (Ryan's) budget, and I will vote for it, and it will fail," Brown said. "Then the president will bring forward his budget, and it will fail. It will be great fodder for the commercials."

Ten days later, Brown wrote an op-ed for POLITICO that was headlined, "Why I don't back Paul Ryan's Medicare plan."

"While I applaud Ryan for getting the conversation started, I cannot support his specific plan — and therefore will vote 'no' on his budget," Brown wrote.

When we took these two comments to Brown's press staff, spokesman Colin Reed said, "He was making the point in Newburyport that political games are being played in Washington, but was not commenting on the merits of the bill."

We agree that in his Newburyport comment, Brown focuses on the gamesmanship of budget-writing in Washington rather than on the policy details. Meanwhile, in the POLITICO column, Brown was careful to praise Ryan's role in starting the "conversation" even as he declared opposition. These suggest a somewhat nuanced position.

Still, Brown did indicate pretty clearly in Newburyport that he would cast a loyal GOP vote for the plan, even if he expected that the vote would ultimately prove fruitless. Then 10 days later, in the POLITICO op-ed, he made clear that he wasn't just disappointed by the Ryan plan but would definitely vote "no."

We give Brown a Full Flop.

This ruling has been edited for print. For more rulings, go to PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Senator fully flops on Medicare changes 05/24/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 9:41pm]
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