Pelosi says Ryan pick makes it easier for Dems to take House

Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 5:52pm

(CNN) -- Mitt Romney's pick of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate will give Democrats a better shot at retaking control of the House of Representatives, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, said in an interview airing Sunday.

Pelosi, a Democrat, said Ryan's plan to overhaul Medicare was a nonstarter among senior citizens, meaning Democrats are better poised to assume the majority in the lower chamber.

"On August 11, when Gov. Romney chose Ryan, that was the pivotal day," Pelosi told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley on "State of the Union." "That is the day things really changed. We were on a path. I would have said to you then we were dead even. Well, the momentum is very much with us, the Medicare issue in this campaign."

Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, has proposed a plan that would allow private insurers to compete with traditional Medicare on an exchange. Democrats, who label the proposal a "voucher system," claim the plan would effectively end Medicare. Republicans say such steps are necessary to ensure the health care program for senior citizens remains solvent. They also point out that Ryan's proposed measures wouldn't affect current Medicare recipients.

On Sunday, Pelosi said the issue was at the forefront of voters' minds and that her party retained the upper hand.

"We have been saying there are three important issues in this campaign. And in alphabetical order, they are Medicare, Medicare, Medicare," the California representative said.

A CNN/ORC poll taken earlier this month indicated Medicare was among the top three most important economic issues for voters, after unemployment and the federal deficit. And a New York Times survey last week showed a significant majority of voters wanted Medicare to remain unchanged, rather than shift to a system like the one Ryan has proposed.

Following his choice of Ryan as running mate, Romney has used Medicare often in his campaign speeches, claiming President Barack Obama took money reserved for Medicare to pay for his sweeping health care law (a claim that has been rated "false" by several fact checkers). While Romney hasn't said which specific elements of Ryan's budget plan he would support as president, he has indicated that many of Ryan's measures would play a part in his own White House budget proposals.

The push by Pelosi and fellow Democrats to win back the House comes after the party lost control of the chamber in the 2010 midterm elections. In order to regain a majority, Democrats are aggressively trying to pick up 25 seats in November's election.

Pelosi said Sunday that without a Democratic majority in the House, legislative gridlock would persist on Capitol Hill, even if Obama is re-elected.

"You'll see more of the same, because it's really important for the public to know that the Republican obstruction of President Obama's jobs bills, and whatever he was advancing, their obstruction is their agenda. They really don't believe in a public role," Pelosi said.

A second-term president, Pelosi said, wouldn't change the legislative dynamic if Republicans remain in the majority. And a Mitt Romney presidency, the minority leader indicated, was unthinkable.

"Mitt Romney is not going to be president of the United States," she said.

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