The Liberal Who Worked With Paul Ryan

Will Sen. Ron Wyden's Cross-the-Aisle Plan Haunt Democrats?

By Nathan Guttman

Published August 16, 2012, issue of August 24, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Unlikely Partners: Liberal Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Republican Paul Ryan worked closely on the Ryan Medicare plan. Mitt Romney has already sought to use Wyden as political cover on the issue.
roll call
Unlikely Partners: Liberal Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Republican Paul Ryan worked closely on the Ryan Medicare plan. Mitt Romney has already sought to use Wyden as political cover on the issue.

In public comments he has made on the issue, Wyden explained that he still thought the ideas raised in his joint proposal with Ryan on Medicare would help save that program. But he adamantly opposed Ryan’s approach to Medicaid, which funds health care for low-income Americans, and nursing home costs for hundreds of thousands of middle-class elderly after they have spent down their assets. Ryan’s budget plan would have turned Medicaid into a “block grant” program — at substantially reduced levels — in which states could cut services for recipients. And Medicare reform, according to Wyden, could not survive without a viable Medicaid plan that would take care of the neediest seniors.

Wyden, 63, has been in Congress since 1981, first as a House member and for the past 12 years as senator from Oregon. His parents fled Nazi Germany and settled in Wichita, Kan., where Wyden was born. He grew up in California and entered politics at the age of 31. Ever since, Wyden has been known for his independent approach to party politics. While falling in line with the Democratic progressive camp on many issues, including staunch opposition to the Iraq War and support for abortion rights, he defied Democratic leadership in criticizing Obama’s stimulus plan and voting with Republicans on certain tax issues.

“Senator Wyden has always been supportive of issues that concern the Jewish community, and health care is one of them,” said Marc Blattner, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. “But,” he added, “one of the things about Wyden is that he is always open to looking for solutions across the aisle.”

Blattner described Wyden as a frequent participant in Jewish events organized by the 45,000-member local community. He is also a regular at national Jewish gatherings and has been a strong supporter of Israel-related legislation endorsed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Romney’s selection of Ryan for the second spot on his ticket has turned the media’s klieg lights on Ryan’s call for Medicare reform. But while the Wisconsin Republican has enjoyed the attention, his former partner in shaping the plan now finds it a political liability.

Republicans, Romney included, have used Wyden’s past support for Ryan’s plan as a cover against Democratic attacks on the Medicare reform idea. Ryan, Romney said, has “found a Democrat to co-lead a piece of legislation.” In praising Ryan’s Medicare plan, Romney said Ryan and Wyden “have come together,” and this, according to the Republican candidate, “is the kind of bipartisanship we need more of, not less.”

An angry Wyden was quick to issue a statement calling Romney’s remarks “nonsense.” Wyden said he did not co-lead the legislation. He noted that eventually he voted against Ryan’s proposals. “Governor Romney needs to learn you don’t protect seniors by makings things up,” Wyden added, “and his comments today sure won’t help promote real bipartisanship.”

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.