Remember the 2003 medicare prescription drug benefit? The one which cost a trillion dollars and which was not paid for at all, just added to the deficit?
Today there are still 24 Republicans in the Senate who supported it, and some of their explanations for how they can be against the current health care overhaul sound strained, to say the least.
Six years ago, "it was standard practice not to pay for things," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "We were concerned about it, because it certainly added to the deficit, no question." His 2003 vote has been vindicated, Hatch said, because the prescription drug benefit "has done a lot of good."
It has done a dubious amount of good (mainly to pharmaceutical companies' bottom line) but it's hard to suggest that a bill which clearly does much more good, extending coverage to the uninsured, is less worthy of Sen. Hatch's vote than the medicare prescription bill. And given that the CBO has projected that the current bill does in fact pay for itself and doesn't raise the deficit, how is it a defense to say that six years ago it was standard practice not to pay for things??? I mean, (pardon my French), WTF?!!?!?
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said those who see hypocrisy "can legitimately raise that issue." But he defended his positions in 2003 and now, saying the economy is in worse shape and Americans are more anxious.
No doubt, the economy is in worse shape. But that's largely because of the policies espoused by the same administration that brought us the prescription drug bill.
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said simply: "Dredging up history is not the way to move forward."
The simple answer: those who have been proven wrong always say that.
At least some conservatives recognize how absurd this whole argument is:
"As far as I am concerned, any Republican who voted for the Medicare drug benefit has no right to criticize anything the Democrats have done in terms of adding to the national debt," said Bruce Bartlett, an official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He made his comments in a Forbes article titled "Republican Deficit Hypocrisy."
Bartlett said the 2003 Medicare expansion was "a pure giveaway" that cost more than this year's Senate or House health bills will cost. More important, he said, "the drug benefit had no dedicated financing, no offsets and no revenue-raisers. One hundred percent of the cost simply added to the federal budget deficit."
The pending health care bills in Congress, he noted, are projected to add nothing to the deficit over 10 years.
This bill is responsible in that it does pay for itself and it benefits far more people than the prescription drug bill. So really (though they won't say it) the only reason they are opposing it is purely political. They want to inflict a defeat on the Obama agenda. End of story.