Kerry Focuses on Medicare During Campaign Stops in Florida
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) on Wednesday in Florida "extended his assault on President Bush's credibility," charging that Bush had not been truthful to the public about the new Medicare law, the New York Times reports. Kerry promised he would take a different long-term approach to the Medicare program (Stevenson, New York Times, 9/23). Kerry, finishing a two-day trip through the battleground state, "particularly took aim" at the Medicare law in the hope that the issue would resonate in an area where seniors comprise 17.6% of the population, "the largest in the country," Long Island Newsday reports.
Kerry "slammed the Medicare drug law" for not allowing the federal government to negotiate bulk-purchase prices from drug companies or legalizing the importation of prescription drugs. He said the new Medicare law is a "windfall" for health insurance plans and is "not really for seniors, it's for the big drug companies," adding, "When I'm president, I'm sending that back to Congress." Kerry also promised that his health care plan would not result in Medicare benefit cuts (Barfield Berry/Fireman, Long Island Newsday, 9/23). Kerry said, "On everything from Social Security to Medicare and prescription drugs to retirement, I believe George Bush has made the wrong choices for America. What's happening is he's driving seniors right out of the middle class, squeezing them, pushing them into places they don't deserve to be and don't want to be" (New York Times, 9/23). Kerry also repeated his criticism of a recent Bush ad that he says "falsely claims the Kerry plan would put the government in charge of the nation's health care system," the Washington Post reports. Kerry said, "(He's) trying to scare you, telling you I'm going to raise your taxes, telling you that you can't choose your doctor, telling you things that just aren't true."
Meanwhile, Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), who had appeared with Kerry on Tuesday at a rally in Orlando, on Wednesday told several hundred supporters at a town-hall-style meeting in Orlando that the Bush administration is responsible for a loss of health coverage over the past four years. Edwards said, "This is your country. This country does not belong to George Bush and Dick Cheney" (Balz/Snyder, Washington Post, 9/23).
The Bush-Cheney campaign responded on Wednesday by criticizing Kerry for missing certain votes on the new Medicare law while campaigning for the presidency (Johnson, Boston Globe, 9/23). Campaign spokesperson Steve Schmidt noted that Kerry in 2000 co-sponsored legislation that prohibited the bulk purchasing of drugs. "Seniors just aren't going to trust John Kerry when they don't know what his position will be tomorrow on the issues that are important to them," Schmidt said. Bush officials added that Kerry's health proposal would be a "big government plan" that would cost $1.2 trillion (Long Island Newsday, 9/23).
Bush, speaking in Pennsylvania, said that Kerry was "seeking political profit by pandering to senior citizens" (Fitzgerald/Hutcheson, Detroit Free Press, 9/23).
As expected, House Democrats on Wednesday gathered outside the Capitol to present "six core values" that spell out "a statement of principles and offe[r] scores of goals," including health care coverage for all children, the Reuters/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The Democrats' series of goals -- titled the "New Partnership for America's Future: Six core values for a strong and secure middle class" -- comes 10 years after Republicans announced their "Contract With America" (Ferraro, Reuters/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/23). The Democrats' goals include ensuring health care "for all Americas," preserving Medicare and legalizing the importation of prescription drugs, the Washington Times reports. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) acknowledged that the goals are broad, but he said they offered "a general agreement that the way you make America strong is to build up things internally" (Fagan, Washington Times, 9/23). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at the presentation, "When the American people entrust us to set the legislative agenda of this House, we will succeed, and so will our country" (Reuters/Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/23). Pelosi added, "House Democrats are united. Today, we go forward in a new partnership to lead the land we love."
House Republicans, who were celebrating the anniversary of the Contract With America, "promptly attacked the [Democrats'] goals as vague" and called the proposals an "ineffective attempt" to follow the success of their broad long-term agenda, the Washington Times reports. Republicans at the anniversary celebration also said that they plan to continue fulfilling their goals by cutting down on "frivolous lawsuits" and lowering health care costs though measures such as health savings accounts, according to the Washington Times (Washington Times, 9/23).