WASHINGTON – A coalition of labor unions and senior citizens’ groups Wednesday announced it was targeting Republican Rep. Constance A. Morella in a TV ad campaign that takes aim against Republican plans to overhaul Medicare.
The coalition hopes the campaign will prevent Morella, a moderate Republican from Bethesda, and 10 other Republicans around the country from voting for Medicare cuts proposed in House Republican plans.
In addition, the group also is using leaflets, community meetings and other means to pressure about three dozen other House Republicans, including Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, to vote against the bills.
Two House committees were voting on the proposal Wednesday. A House vote is scheduled for Oct. 18.
The changes to Medicare would “devastate the elderly,” said Gerald W. McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. He said the ads, which begin airing Thursday, “depict the difficult choices that tens of thousands of American families will have to face if the House passes tax cuts for the rich.”
Morella was targeted because of her independence from the House GOP leadership on previous budget issues, said Diane King, a spokeswoman for AFSCME. Morella and the other House members are “legislatively persuadable,” King said.
Morella said Wednesday she has not made a commitment on the overhaul proposals, but criticized the advertising campaign targeting her.
Because of the advertising, “people think they’re going to lose their health care,” Morella said.
She said the Republican plans would only reduce the rate of growth of the Medicare program.
Cathy Bassett, a spokeswoman for Gilchrest, said she was not surprised her boss had been targeted for lobbying. “Union organizers are ripped up about this,” she said.
The coalition said Wednesday that it is also targeting seven Republican senators. None of the senators are from Maryland or Virginia.
In addition, the coalition hopes to convince nine House Democrats to vote with their party against the Republican proposal.
A Capital News Service survey Wednesday of Maryland House members revealed that two are committed to supporting the Republican plans, and two are committed opponents. Three were unreachable, and Morella is uncommitted.
Republican Reps. Robert Ehrlich of Timonium and Gilchrest support the GOP overhaul, their spokesmen said. “He believes the plan will work,” Bassett said of Gilchrest.
Democratic Rep. Albert Wynn of Largo opposes it, said spokeswoman Sharon McGill.
Democratic Rep. Benjamin Cardin of Baltimore, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, voted Wednesday against a Republican plan, and will oppose it in the House, a spokeswoman said.
Reps. Kweisi Mfume, D-Baltimore, Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, and Steny Hoyer, D-Mitchellville, were not available for comment.
The House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday voted along party lines, 22-14, to approve a Medicare plan that would save $270 billion in the health program over seven years.
The House Commerce Committee was expected to complete its work by midnight on a similar bill, said James Derderian, majority staff director.
The Commerce Committee’s work was disrupted Wednesday by more than 10 senior citizens, who refused to sit down during votes, said Mike Collins, a committee spokesman. The seniors were asked repeatedly to sit down, by both committee Chairman Thomas Bliley, R-Va., and police. When they refused, they were arrested, Collins said.
The Senate Finance Committee voted Sept. 30 on its version of a Medicare overhaul.
According to King, the 10 other Republicans targeted in the ads are: Reps. Jim Longley of Maine, William Martini of New Jersey, Jack Quinn of New York, Martin Hoke of Ohio, Jim Bunn of Oregon, Randy Tate of Washington, Mark Neumann of Wisconsin, Ray LaHood of Illinois and Gary Franks and Nancy L. Johnson of Connecticut. Staff reporter Kera Ritter contributed to this report. -30-