WASHINGTON – In a postelection reversal, House Republicans are supporting nearly $450 billion in Medicare cuts that they criticized vigorously last fall after Democrats and President Obama passed them as part of their controversial health care law.

The cuts are included in the 2012 budget that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled last week and account for a significant share of the $5.8 trillion in claimed savings over the next decade.

The House is expected to vote on the blueprint this week.

Ryan’s spokesman, Conor Sweeney, said the cuts are virtually the only part of “Obamacare” – the term that Republicans use derisively to describe the health care law enacted last year – that the Wisconsin Republican preserved when he drafted his budget.

If left in effect, the cuts would mean smaller payments over the next decade for hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and other Medicare providers. In addition, federal subsidies would decline for seniors who purchase coverage through private insurance plans under Medicare Advantage, although Ryan proposed a small partial restoration in that area.

Last fall, in their drive to win control of the House, Republicans were harshly critical of Democrats on the issue of cuts to a program that benefits millions of seniors.

“The new law’s massive Medicare cuts will fall squarely on the backs of seniors, millions of whom will be forced off their current Medicare coverage,” the GOP wrote in its “Pledge to America,” an election-season manifesto. In making the claim, Republicans cited the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which oversees both programs.

In addition to the “Pledge to America,” House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and individual Republican candidates all criticized the cuts.

The National Republican Congressional Committee featured them in ads attacking Democrats in numerous campaigns, and some individual candidates made use of the cuts as well.

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