Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and a smattering of other members in the party leadership returned to Washington Tuesday despite the congressional recess, in another effort to contrast their party's willingness to work with what they call a "do-nothing" Republican House.
The Democrats' Steering and Policy Committee held a hearing and press conference to discuss Republican efforts to "end Medicare as we know it," they said. More than 15 Members returned for the event, including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Caucus Chairman Jim Larson, D-Conn., Assistant Leader James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Caucus Vice Chair Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.
Their return coincided with the Tuesday release of a smattering of new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ads focused on Medicare. The swing-district spots slammed candidates like Reps. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., and Judy Biggert, R-Ill., for supporting legislation, including budget proposals from Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that would end the Medicare guarantee.
The Democrats beat a familiar drum at the hearing, focusing their attacks on the plans put forth by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Ryan, his running mate. Romney has put forward a proposal to replace Medicare with a fixed-value voucher that seniors use to pay insurance premiums. Traditional Medicare would still be an option, but would compete for customers with private insurance plans.
A Congressional Budget Office analysis of a similar plan put forth by Ryan found that by 2030, Medicare would be spending about $2,200 less on a typical senior than Medicare spends now. But Democrats emphasized the "personal" costs of the savings, saying they would transfer the cost to the consumer.
"The choice that the Republicans are advocating is a choice for the insurance companies to cover or not. Seniors would lose their choice of doctors and other providers. Privatizing Medicare gives profit to the private sector at the expense of our seniors," Pelosi said, adding "The election is 5 weeks from today. Medicare is on the ballot, Medicare is in jeopardy. We have a responsibility to protect it."
Tuesday's was not the first eventful pro forma session in this recess. Democrats have spent the past week working to hammer home the idea that Republicans have done little during this session to work for the American people. Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards of Maryland and Henry Waxman of California took to the floor last week to blast Republicans for keeping so much legislation off the floor.
"We were scheduled to be here, a week in session, and Democrats are here to work for the American people," Pelosi said at the hearing. "But the Republicans have walked out. They have tried to silence our voices on the floor, but nonetheless, they will not silence our voices in this room."
In a press conference last month, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House would work to take up much of the legislation after the election. Explaining the House had accomplished a great deal, he turned the tables on Senate Democrats for leaving town with their own to-do list.
"We're--the House--is the only body to have passed a bill to stop all the coming tax hikes. The House is the only body that's passed a bill to stop the sequester," he said. "We have done our work. But here Senate Democrats and the president, where is their responsibility? Where is their leadership? It just doesn't exist."