The Republicans blasting the Democrats’ health reform proposal as an unaffordable new entitlement are continually running smack into the tiny inconvenience that, just seven years ago, GOP leaders enacted the Medicare prescription drug benefit — a new federal program projected to cost taxpayers $550 billion dollars through 2016 alone. And not a cent of it was offset by spending cuts elsewhere.
The media have caught on, and they’re pressing some GOP leaders to explain themselves. Not that the Republicans are ready to concede their hypocrisy.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told CNBC yesterday that Part D has been worth the additional taxpayer costs because the program has helped millions of seniors “get their drug costs down.” (As if the 30+ million Americans estimated to get health coverage under the Democrats’ bills wouldn’t similarly benefit.) Republicans “couldn’t have [offset] it if we wanted to,” Hatch added, “because they would not have paid for this.” He was talking about Democrats.
We would have paid for it but we didn’t have the votes to force paying for it. So don’t blame Republicans for that.
That’s a bit different from the explanation that Hatch gave USA Today in December, when he said that the Republicans didn’t offset the new entitlement because, in 2003, “it was standard practice not to pay for things” — a convenient position to have when your party controls both the Congress and the White House, but not necessarily one to set the country on the path to financial stability.
Bruce Bartlett — former economic adviser to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — has been quick to call out those Republicans who want to have it both ways. Writing in Forbes in November, Bartlett called Part D “a pure giveaway with a gross cost greater than either the House or Senate health reform bills how being considered.”
It astonishes me that a party enacting anything like the drug benefit would have the chutzpah to view itself as fiscally responsible in any sense of the term. 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. Space prohibits listing all their names, but the final Senate vote can be found here and the House vote here.
Hatch, it should be noted, voted in favor of the largest entitlement expansion since Medicare was created.
H/t: The Hill.
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