Republican candidates in Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District race embrace their party's goals on budget, Medicare

Running to succeed U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, the only Democrat in Oklahoma's congressional delegation, 2nd District Republican candidates aren't running away from the deficit-reduction blueprint passed by the Republican-led House.
by Chris Casteel Published: May 27, 2012

— Republicans hoping to replace the only Democrat in Oklahoma's congressional delegation are embracing their party's plan for deficit reduction, including the proposal to give seniors private options for Medicare.

Four of the six Republicans running for the GOP nomination in the heavily Democratic 2nd district said they agree with the overarching deficit-reduction goals of the budget approved by the U.S. House in March.

Five said they are open to changes in the Medicare program, including raising the retirement age and giving seniors the option of buying private insurance plans.

“As Congress pursues solutions to deal with our mounting entitlement crisis, I am open to ideas that help keep our promises to current Medicare beneficiaries while ensuring Medicare's viability for future generations,” said Dakota Wood, of Claremore.

And five of the Republican hopefuls said all of the Bush administration's tax cuts should be extended.

Wayne Pettigrew, of McAlester, said, “If these reforms are not continued, the economic impact of the tax increases will significantly stall the economy and likely produce a new, severe recession.”

The House Republican budget and the tax cuts are major dividing points between Republicans and Democrats in Washington and are expected to dominate debates over fiscal issues this election year.

Often referred to as the Ryan plan after its author, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, it would make deep cuts to domestic programs, ranging from farm subsidies and food stamps to Medicaid, while protecting military spending.

National battleground

Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, who currently represents the 2nd District, voted against the budget. Because Boren is retiring, Republicans are expected to make the district a national battleground.

Three Democrats are vying for their party's nomination and at least one has criticized the Republican budget. Rob Wallace, of Fort Gibson, said it would force “seniors to pay more for health care, while giving more tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy and to companies that ship our jobs overseas.”

Another, Wayne Herriman, of Muskogee, has vowed to protect Medicare.

Of the six Republicans running, four endorsed the House Republican budget — Wood, Pettigrew, state Rep. George Faught, of Muskogee, and Dustin Rowe, of Tishomingo.

Markwayne Mullin, of Westville, and Dwayne Thompson, of Fort Gibson, did not directly answer the question.

Faught said the Ryan budget had three critical components of deficit reduction: defunding the health care law; cutting spending to its historical average of 20 percent of Gross National Product; and reducing the tax burden “on those that are productive.” He said he would go further and eliminate or scale back some departments and agencies.

Looming tax fight

Five of the Republican candidates said they would consider the changes to Medicare envisioned in the House GOP budget. The budget would not affect those currently in the system but would, in 10 years, shift Medicare to a premium support system in which seniors could purchase private insurance or traditional government coverage.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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