Brown hedges on Medicare overhaul

Clarifies remarks to business group

A spokes- man for Scott Brown called the senator’s comments an observation of political gamesmanship, not a commitment to vote for the House-passed plan. A spokes- man for Scott Brown called the senator’s comments an observation of political gamesmanship, not a commitment to vote for the House-passed plan.
By Theo Emery
Globe Staff / May 18, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Senator Scott Brown will not disclose whether he supports a GOP budget plan that includes sweeping changes to Medicare, despite saying to a business group last week that he will vote for the measure when it comes up in the US Senate.

Although the Massachusetts Republican supports the thrust of the House-passed plan to rein in spending, he wants the Senate to have an opportunity to work on a bipartisan budget bill, his spokesman Colin Reed said yesterday.

“We need to move Washington away from spending money it doesn’t have,’’ Brown said in a statement. “Now that the president and the House have submitted their budgets, I look forward to working in the Senate on a bipartisan plan that makes the tough choices that will help get our fiscal house in order.’’

Brown’s statement comes after he spoke to the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry Friday about the partisan realities of budgeting in Washington. Without endorsing the merits of the budget or individual provisions within it, he told the group he would vote for it, even though he predicted it would not pass. Democratic Senate aides have said the legislation could get a vote in the next two weeks.

“The leaders will bring forward [the GOP] budget, and I will vote for it, and it will fail,’’ he said in his speech, which was reported in the Newburyport Daily News. “Then the president will bring forward his budget, and it will fail.’’

The votes would fuel partisan attack ads, he went on to say, and then both parties would get down to serious work on compromise. Brown has previously praised the proposal by Representative Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, but his comments to the business group appeared to be the first time he had said he would vote for it.

Reed said that Brown’s comments in Newburyport were merely an observation of political gamesmanship in Washington, not a commitment to vote for the measure or for the politically charged measures within it.

The comments Friday set off a flurry of criticism from senior citizen advocates and Democrats. Even if Brown doesn’t vote for Ryan’s plan, a Democratic spokesman said yesterday, he is still endorsing its underpinnings, which include changes to Medicare.

“Scott Brown is clearly no moderate,’’ said Matt Canter of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The House deficit-reduction plan seeks to cut about $6.2 billion in spending over the next decade. Part of those savings would come from a controversial provision to transform Medicare into a voucher system. GOP leaders in Congress have recently said they do not plan to immediately push for passage of the Medicare provisions, with some Republicans, including presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, outright rejecting them.

Theo Emery can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @temery.

Correction: Because of an editing error, this story examining Senator Scott Brown’s position on the 2012 GOP budget misstated a long-term goal of the budget. The plan seeks to cut $6.2 trillion in spending in the next decade.