Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has become the latest Republican to go up against CNN host Soledad O’Brien on the issue of Medicare and lose.
During an interview on Friday, O’Brien called out Chaffetz after he tried to claim that that Medicare plans offered by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), would not turn the program into a voucher system.
“Let’s keep to the facts that President [Barack] Obama did take $700 billion out of Medicare,” Chaffetz told O’Brien.
“We’ve now had this conversation 15 times at least,” O’Brien noted, shaking her head. “As you know, it’s not taking money out of Medicare, right? It’s a decrease in spending over time and it’s a decrease that you yourself, I assume, voted for, right? In Paul Ryan’s budget in 2011 and 2012, he had that same number in his budget. Didn’t you vote for that?”
“It’s not exactly the same number,” Chaffetz replied. “I did vote in favor of the two budgets.”
“But now you’re criticizing something that you voted for twice, right?,” O’Brien observed.
“It’s a totally different approach,” the Utah Republican maintained. “For instance, the Independent Payment Advisory Board — IPAB — is not something that I support, but is something that takes that $700 billion that Obama took and puts it into the control of these bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”
“At the end of the day, that same number crunching was voted on by virtually every single Republican in 2011 and then again in 2012. That is fair to say,” O’Brien pointed out, adding that both Romney and Ryan had promised to “save” Medicare by turning it into a “voucher program.”
“No, it’s not!” Chaffetz objected.
“It’s not a voucher program?” O’Brien wondered.
“It is not a voucher program,” Chaffetz insisted. “It is a premium support, and that is totally different than a voucher program. And every time somebody says, ‘Oh, it’s a voucher program,’ it’s false, it’s misleading, it’s derogatory and it’s inaccurate. That is not what it does.”
“You will give people money to go and buy their own insurance, right?” O’Brien pressed. “But we’re arguing over symantics. At the end of the day, isn’t it — you would give someone money to buy their own insurance.”
“No, a premium support program is different than a voucher program,” Chaffetz repeated.
“Walk me through how it’s different,” O’Brien dared the congressman.
“Because some people that have maybe more needs or medical needs or they have less income, they’re going to have more flexibility and more assets to go and do what they need to do in order to have some choice and flexibility and create competition in the marketplace,” Chaffetz explained.
“Which is they get a voucher to go buy something!” O’Brien concluded.
On Monday, John Sununu, who serves as the chairman of Romney’s national steering committee, had also lashed out at O’Brien after she tried to fact check his claims about Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as it exists today and turn it into a voucher system.
“Soledad, stop this!” Sununu shouted. “All you’re doing is mimicking the stuff that comes out of the White House and gets repeated on the Democratic blog boards out there.”
“I’m telling you what Factcheck.com tells you, I’m telling you what the CBO tells you, I’m telling you what CNN’s independent analysis says,” the CNN host explained.
“Put an Obama bumper sticker on your forehead when you do this!” the frustrated surrogate quipped.
“You know, let me tell you something,” O’Brien said. “There is independent analysis that details what this is about. … And name calling to me and somehow by you repeating a number of $716 billion, that you can make that stick when [you say] that figure is being ‘stolen’ from Medicare, that’s not true. You can’t just repeat it and make it true, sir.”
And then on Wednesday, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Romney’s national campaign co-chair, became flustered and suggested that O’Brien couldn’t understand plain English after she pushed back on his claim that is was “absolutely beyond factual dispute that [Obama] has cut $716 billion” from Medicare.
“I speak English incredibly well, sir, as you know,” O’Brien told Pawlenty.
Earlier this week, PolitiFact determined that it was “mostly true” that the plans offered by Romney and Ryan would turn Medicare into a voucher system.
“We agree that in the world of policy wonks, there are distinctions between ‘vouchers’ and ‘premium support,’ having to do with the type of inflation adjustment used and the degree of marketplace regulation imposed,” the fact-checking publication wrote. “But the Romney-Ryan approach pretty much matches the dictionary definition of ‘a form or check indicating a credit against future purchases or expenditures.’ … For a political discussion aimed at voters rather than policy wonks, we think Obama’s use of the term ‘voucher’ is close enough to earn it a rating of Mostly True.”
Watch this video from CNN’s Starting Point, broadcast Aug. 17, 2012.