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Congress: The heat is on

“Any lawmaker in a swing district can expect to take criticism from his right flank at a town hall meeting. But at an American Veterans outpost tucked deep in the Pocono Mountains this week, freshman Republican Rep. Lou Barletta took heat from every direction — from Democrats angry with the tax cuts in the GOP budget, to conservatives who thought he caved on the last continuing resolution vote, to a precocious 16-year-old critical of the lawmaker’s environmental record,” Politico writes.

More: “Barletta’s district is one of a handful that Democrats have zeroed in on this spring break... The town halls in Pennsylvania showed deep concern about the national debt but extreme wariness of cuts to entitlements, and constituents are starting to vent their frustrations with the new House GOP majority.”

“If video of angry constituents haranguing members of Congress over healthcare reform captured the tone of that policy debate, Democrats and their allies hope that similar clips will emerge in 2011 to define the coming battle over Medicare and entitlement reform,” The Hill adds.

The liberal group Americans United for Change is launching $35,000 in TV ads in four Republican-held House districts for backing the Rep. Paul Ryan budget proposal – WI-1 (Ryan), MN-8 (Chip Cravaack, freshman), WI-7 (Sean Duffy, freshman), IA-5 (Steve King). The ads will run on local broadcast TV from today through Thursday. The group is also running robo-calls in 23 Republican-held districts, targeting those 45 and older. (The Ryan plan would phase out Medicare and be unavailable for those who are currently 54 and younger.)

Here’s part of that script: “On April 15th, your Congressman [insert name] voted to end Medicare and its guaranteed health care benefits. Instead, he wants to give seniors a voucher forcing them to go out and find coverage from private insurance companies. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates this proposal will increase senior’s out of pocket costs by $6,000 each year – and Congressman [insert name] is using the savings to give corporations and millionaires another tax break. Congressman [insert name] even voted to slash Medicaid funds that pay nursing home care for seniors and the disabled. Call Congressman [insert name] at [insert number]. Tell him (her) that cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to pay for tax cuts for corporations and millionaires is just wrong. Tell him/her to keep his/her  – hands off our Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”

Meanwhile, the DCCC has released a video hitting House Republicans for their vote to phase out Medicare. “House Republicans promised they would protect Medicare,” the video goes. “They lied.” 

Gang of 12? “The deficit negotiators being brought together by Vice President Biden on May 5 have strong opposing views on how to deal with the national debt and have each hurled a lot of rhetoric on the issue. This has led many to conclude the ‘Biden Commission’ talks face an uphill climb,” The Hill writes. “The contrast between the new commission, made up of three senators and three House members, and the existing Gang of Six senators, who have emphasized a need to embrace compromises on spending cuts, entitlement reforms and tax policy changes, is strong.”

The New York Times: "Hoping to unclog the Senate and spare scores of presidential appointees from what is often a grueling confirmation process, leading lawmakers in both parties are moving to cut the number of administration posts that are subject to Senate approval."