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Political Notebook

Gingrich stops short of backing Ryan’s Medicare plan

May 26, 2011

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MANCHESTER, N.H. — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich continues to back away from criticism he made this month of Representative Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare but he stops short of endorsing the plan.

Yesterday, Gingrich delivered a speech about health care without mentioning the plan, then declined to take reporters’ questions about it.

Later in the day, Gingrich said his words criticizing Ryan’s plan were “clumsy.’’ What he meant, he said, was that when a political party tries to make a major policy change it is obliged to make sure people understand, question, and improve it.

“I was trying to say in too short a time be very careful not to try to push on to the American people something they don’t yet understand,’’ he said.

Gingrich praised Ryan for “starting the conversation’’ and added “the underlying principle is exactly right.’’

But when asked if he supported turning Medicare into a voucher program, as Ryan would, Gingrich made no commitment, saying only that he supports debating options to give individuals more freedom to choose health-savings accounts or other payment models.

He also accused Democrats of using a tactic he called “Mediscare,’’ or “frightening grandparents for the purpose of winning elections by telling lies.’’ — SHIRA SCHOENBERG

Judicial nominee drops out after GOP blocks vote
WASHINGTON — A liberal legal scholar is withdrawing his nomination to an appeals court judgeship after Senate Republicans blocked a vote on his confirmation last week.

Goodwin Liu, 40, said in a letter to President Obama that he and his family need “to make plans for the future’’ now that there is little prospect of a Senate vote on his nomination.

Obama nominated Liu, a law professor at the University of California Berkeley, to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last year. Liu was seen as potentially the first Asian American Supreme Court nominee, and time as an appeals court judge would have burnished his credentials. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Race to the Top to offer $500m for early learning
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration yesterday unveiled a competition to spur changes in early childhood programs and fuel spending as many states are cutting such funding.

The next phase of Obama’s Race to the Top program will distribute $500 million to states that plan to expand access to early learning programs for children from low-income families and establish clear academic goals and strong evaluation systems.

Early learning programs have been tied to lasting academic success, including higher high school and college graduation rates. Still, only 40 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in government-funded preschool programs, according to the most recent report by the National Institute for Early Education Research. — WASHINGTON POST