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Boehner tries to reassure GOP caucus on Medicare

Speaker John Boehner told his Republican House members Tuesday night that "Paul Ryan gives us the ability to go on offense" in the battle over Medicare following Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate.

That message, described by senior aides, came during a regular recess conference call while members are home in their districts and campaigning for re-election.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

House Speaker John Boehner talks about a lunch meeting with President Obama to deal with rising gasoline prices, at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 29, 2012.

Boehner appeared to offer reassurance saying, "The pundits are buzzing that with Paul on the ticket, the Democrats are going to attack us on Medicare.  Well, here's a news flash -- they were gonna do that anyway."  

GOP leadership wants voters to hear their argument that Republicans are "the only ones" who have taken action to preserve Medicare in the budget they passed while the president's health care law they claim, "raided Medicare by $700 billion."

The speaker stressed that jobs and the economy must remain their top issues, but he also gave guidance on how House Republicans should frame other key arguments. On Romney's tax returns, Boehner pointed to Ryan's "60 Minutes" response: "The American people aren't asking where are the tax returns; they're asking, 'Where are the jobs?'" On stalled drought relief, Boehner pointed out that the president, in Iowa, criticized Ryan for congressional inaction. Boehner countered that the House did pass its version of help for farmers while the Senate did not tackle drought relief.

Boehner accused President Obama of being "desperate to shift the conversation away from his record on jobs and the economy." The speaker encouraged an aggressive stay on offense strategy saying, "If we keep that kind of focus and discipline, the American people will be with us."

Yet on the issue of Medicare, Democrats today fired back, with Sen. Chuck Schumer issuing this memo:

The case for Paul Ryan goes something like this: even if you disagree with his policy ideas, his proposals at least represent a good-faith appeal for deficit reduction that is both serious and statesmanlike.

This appears to be the message Mitt Romney hopes to sell with his risky selection of Ryan as his running mate. But it is an utter myth. In Ryan's budget, the savings achieved by his plan to privatize Medicare and gut investments in the middle class do not go towards reducing the deficit, but rather to pay for further tax cuts for the wealthy.