Florida Republican Rep. Connie Mack IV, who on Tuesday won the GOP nomination for Senate in Florida, told reporters during a Wednesday conference call that he does not fully support Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal.
Earlier this year Mack missed the House vote on Ryan’s budget because he was fundraising in Florida. The budget proposal is again receiving national attention since Ryan was unveiled Saturday as GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate.
“I haven’t always supported Paul Ryan’s budget,” Mack admitted on Wednesday, explaining, “I frankly think that we need to balance the budget a lot quicker than 28 years.”
Mack, however, said he appreciates Ryan’s effort.
“The Democrats have no plans. They want to stick their heads in the sand when it comes to Medicare,” he said, adding that Democrats “want to simply lie to the people of Florida” by saying that Republicans want to “change Medicare as we know it.”
Perhaps in no other state is Medicare as big of an issue as in Florida, where the large population of senior citizens means the topic receives attention in every election.
The Ryan proposal would restructure Medicare and Medicaid, which could be a liability for Republicans in the Sunshine State.
In April, The Miami Herald reported that Mack called Ryan’s budget plan a “joke.” The quote came from the conservative Florida Political Press, which reported that Mack said, “You know that budget was a joke, doesn’t balance the budget for years.”
Mack disputed the quote, saying Wednesday that “one of my opponents’ operatives quoted me as saying that and then the press ran with it without getting the facts right.” What he really said, in his recounting, was that the “process” was a joke, since “the Senate hasn’t passed a budget in over three years.”
David James, Mack’s Deputy Campaign Manager, following up by email, noted that “the only credentialed journalist the audience was from the Associated Press, who never filed copy on Mack’s comments, because they were never stated.” He sent over an audio clip of the event in which Mack says: “That budget vote this past week, you know that was kind of a joke, right? I mean, it’s not gonna balance the budget for 24 years. The Senate’s not gonna do anything with it,”
“It takes a lot of courage and I’m thankful that Paul Ryan put forward a budget,” Mack said on the call Wednesday. “And, as I said, I haven’t always agreed with his budget; I think we can balance the budget in a quicker time.”
“Twenty-eight years is too long for me … we should be able to balance the budget in a 10-year period,” he said.
Despite any disagreements, James said Mack would “Absolutely” campaign with Ryan when he was in Florida.
“Absolutely – especially when you consider the long, deep friendship between Mack and Governor Romney,” James emailed. “It’s no secret in Florida how connected the efforts are between the Mack campaign and the Romney-Ryan campaign.”
Mack insisted on the conference call that the only person who was hurt by having the topic of Medicare front and center was current Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
“In the state of Florida you’re gonna have the presidential election … and you’re gonna have a Senate election. There’s only two people in those races that have voted to gut Medicare, and that’s Barack Obama and Senator Nelson. They took $700 billion out of Medicare to pay for Obamacare,” he said, echoing the attack lines of many Republicans.
“I think President Obama and Sen. Nelson are kind of living in glass houses right now and playing catch with rocks,” he said.