The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today strongly encouraged Arizona Representative Ben Quayle (R-AZ) to clarify tonight, in front of his Jewish audience, whether he stands with right-wing extremists or the majority of American Jews when it comes to Medicare, Social Security, and health care reform. Over the past few months, Quayle has made a number of inconsistent statements that make his positions on these important issues unclear. He will be addressing the Arizona chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Scottsdale, AZ on topics ranging from the economy to the Middle East. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:
“The Republican Jewish Coalition has provided Representative Ben Quayle an important opportunity to clarify in front of a Jewish audience whether he stands with conservative extremists or the vast majority of American Jews when it comes to preserving Medicare, Social Security, and health care reform. Quayle’s website asserts that he is fighting to save these essential programs, but his public statements and his support of the dangerous congressional Republican budget advanced by Representative Paul Ryan run counter to his pledges. Quayle has the opportunity tonight to clarify his opaque positions and declare once and for all if he can truly be counted on by his Jewish constituents to stand for Jewish values.”
The vast majority of American Jews expect political leaders to fight for a strong social safety net and preserve programs like Medicare and Social Security for future generations. However, given his record of confusing statements, it is not clear whether Quayle can be counted on by most American Jews.
Quayle’s position on the future of Medicare is unclear. His congressional website says that he “support[s] policies that will ensure that Medicare will be available for our children and grandchildren” and that he wants to “work together on both sides of the aisle to produce a plan that protects Medicare for future generations.” [Quayle.house.gov] However, Quayle has been a strong supporter of the congressional Republican budget advanced by Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) that restricts access to Medicare and turns the program into a voucher system. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the plan states that future Medicare recipients would have to pay a much greater amount for their health care than they do currently. [Congressional Budget Office, April 5, 2011] Slashing Medicare benefits conflicts directly with most American Jews and Jewish leaders as well as many of Quayle’s constituents. [Arizona Republic, May 19, 2011]
Quayle’s position on social security is unclear. Quayle claims on his website that “Social Security provides a valuable safety net for millions of Americans and [he is] committed to protecting this program for future generations.” [Quayle.house.gov] However he has joined the fight to privatize Social Security and has pushed to increase the retirement age, both of which would endanger America’s seniors. In a CNN interview, Quayle said, “for people of my generation and younger, we would actually have to reform it which would be to start to gradually increase the retirement age up to 70 and allow a portion of the people to take ... their Social Security and actually invest into private accounts.” [The Hill, August 14, 2010] American Jews value passing this program on to future generations, not restricting it and making it more difficult for seniors to live dignified lives.
Quayle seeks to repeal President Obama’s health care reform package despite its benefits. Quayle claims on his website that “it is a priority of [his] ... to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable quality health care.” However, he is committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act, which has dramatically improved the lives of millions of Americans. [Quayle.house.gov] The Affordable Care Act was supported by myriad Jewish communal groups and institutions, as well as a broad coalition of rabbis, lay leaders, and community members that spanned the religious spectrum. His pledge to repeal the health care reform legislation places him firmly in opposition to most American Jews.
Quayle must use tonight’s address to a Jewish audience to clarify his positions on these issues - unless of course he wishes to make clear that he stands with right wing extremists instead of most American Jews. In that case, Quayle would become just the latest Republican to prove that the GOP as a whole cannot be trusted to fight for the values of most in the American Jewish community.