Rep. Mark Critz is still hammering the Medicare drum. Once in a blue moon can a politician find a single issue that can carry him or her through both a primary and a general election with equal efficacy. But after Keith Rothfus announced he’d be speaking at a Tea Party Express event in Pittsburgh Thursday evening, Critz went on the attack.
The Tea Party Express has received criticism from Democrats on a host of issues. But the relevant accusation this week is that the group wants to end Medicare. Democrats say the their official support of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget demonstrates their lack of support for senior citizens. They’re using it to tag Keith Rothfus, an Allegheny County attorney and Critz’s GOP opponent.
“By rallying with the Tea Party Express, Keith Rothfus confirms that he supports ending Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program, costing seniors an additional $6,000 a year in out of pocket-expenses while at the same time cutting taxes for millionaires like himself,” Critz’s campaign spokesman Mike Mikus said in a press release.
He also used Medicare as a wedge issue in his primary, via the Balanced Budget Amendment. Rep. Jason Altmire supported the BBA, which Critz effectively cast as a threat to the entitlement program.
Critz’s allies in organized labor also picked up on the rally.
“Now that the general election is in full swing most candidates would turn their message towards picking up moderate votes,” said PA Campaign Communications Director Yuri Beckleman. But not Rothfus.
But Critz will have some rhetorical challenges ahead, something that Rothfus’ camp highlighted in its response to the TP Express criticism.
Unfazed, Rothfus campaign spokesman Jon Raso said Critz’s support of Obamacare shows which candidate truly supports senior citizens in Pennsylvania.
“Obamacare is what ends Medicare as we know it; it guts the program of $500 Billion in funding at the same time the Medicare population is set to increase by 42 percent,” Raso said.
“Keith Rothfus is dedicated to protecting and strengthening Medicare for this and future
generations. We must repeal Obamacare to protect Medicare, not protect President Obama as Congressman Critz is doing.”
It’s a tricky balancing act for Critz. During his 2010 campaign, Critz said that he would have voted against Obamacare. However, during his tenure in Congress, Critz has voted numerous times against measures to repeal parts or all of the law. And he boasted of his quasi-support for the law during his primary with Altmire.
Update: The Tea Party Express has responded to what they have called erroneous attacks by the Critz camp in a press release, saying:
“The truth is, thanks to Critz-supported Obamacare, Medicare is being gutted by $575 billion in cuts. The money is then used in an attempt to fund one of the largest federal government overreaches in our nation’s history. Simply, the Critz-Obama plan will end Medicare completely because it continues as an unfunded program that will run out of money unless remedial action is taken.
They also said that Critz is out of touch with the country’s agenda, and likened his leadership to that of European countries in economic distress (particularly Greece).
“After Critz loses in November, he should consider moving to Greece, where they are accustomed to electing irresponsible spending legislators like Mark Critz. It can be another junket like the ones that he seems to enjoy.”