Apparently part of the “new messaging” strategy on Medicare on the part of the House Republicans is to force the Democrats to use the same messaging by not allowing them to send constituent mail that describes what the proposal would do.
When Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia, tried to send a taxpayer-paid newsletter to his constituents this month, the Republican majority had a few edits first.
Instead of calling the Republican budget proposals a plan to “eliminate Medicare as we know it and replace it with a privatized system,” the group that oversees House mailings insisted on making it “change Medicare and revise a government program with support from private insurance companies.”
Where Mr. Connolly wanted to call the plan, offered by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, a “radical plan,” the committee said no. And when Mr. Connolly tried to characterize it as a “voucher,” it was suggested that he refer to the plan as a “premium support system,” the term used by House Republicans….
Mr. Connolly and other Democrats say that the Republican majority has suddenly begun trying to change their newsletters in the wake of the Democratic victory in a New York special election—a victory that some say was helped by Democratic messages about Republican plans for Medicare.
“They are changing their tune due to political fallout and bad poll results,” Mr. Connolly said.
Here’s Connolly on the House floor, talking about the controversy.
…I’m not allowed to call it the “Ryan budget,” even though the Republicans called it the Ryan budget, because of course it’s become unpopular. I’m not allowed to refer to changing Medicare to a voucher system even though Mr. Ryan himself referred to is as a voucher system. I must now call it a premium support system. These changes, among many others, are censorship at it’s worse. When we don’t like something, when it’s not going well for us on the majority side, we suppress it. This censorship would make former Soviet censors blush at the breathtaking nature and the sweeping scope of the suppression of free expression, of free ideas, here in the nation’s Capitol….
That might be a tad hyperbolic—it’d take a lot to make a Soviet censor blush—but the Republicans are taking this further than any previous partisan battle over franked mail (and this isn’t the first). TPM’s Brian Beutler makes the point that the language the Republicans are striking isn’t just language they’ve used themselves, but that the “language Republicans on the commission now reject is identical to language they approved earlier this year, before their Medicare plan cost them a seat in a conservative district in upstate New York.