Republicans Win House Medicare Vote

The Washington Post’s David Broder has a fascinatng account of yesterday’s House vote on President Bush’s medicare reform and prescription drug coverage bill, which passed the House around six o’clock a.m. on a 220-215 vote.
For a time, it appeared that the measure was almost certain to be defeated, as conservative Republicans joined Democrats in opposing it. Broder’s account details the arm-twisting that occurred over a period of three hours as Speaker Dennis Hastert kept the debate open until the necessary votes could be rounded up.
My favorite part of the post-mortem is the claim by Democrat whip Steny Hoyer that the Republicans “stole” the vote through “undemocratic subversion of the will of the House.” How exactly a Congressional vote can be undemocratic was not explained. What next? Will the Democrats try to cancel the next Presidential election on the ground that it’s “undemocratic”? For the Democrats, the only “democratic” measures are judicial fiats and filibusters.
The Medicare program is, in my opinion, an abomination. Even apart from the fact that it is a financial disaster, Medicare is wrong in principle and should never have been passed. Until now, the only good thing about it was that it didn’t cover prescription drugs. But the administration and the Republican House leadership convinced a small but critical group of conservatives to switch their votes by arguing that the alternative to the Republican bill was a Democratic version that would be even worse.
The only good thing I can say for the Republican bill is that the Democrats hated it. The Democratic National Committee sent out an email “special report” that said:
“Make no mistake: this bill is the first step in a long-term Republican plan to undermine and destroy Medicare. Prominent Republicans — including Bush administration officials — have made it clear that the destruction of Medicare is their goal.”
Unfortunately, the Democrats are wrong. Few Republicans share my desire to get rid of Medicare. And after last night’s the vote, the prospect of a real debate on the merits of the Medicare program is more remote than ever.

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