If you’ve spent any time this morning watching the farcical House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on healthcare.gov, you may have noticed Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) becoming quite animated during the proceedings. It’s worth contrasting his antics this morning with his approach at a similar point six years ago.
Today, Barton was lashing out wildly, accusing contractors of violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), getting confused about what “source code” is, and making false claims about personal health information submitted through the health care website. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) grew so frustrated with Barton’s nonsense that he eventually broke decorum, interrupted Barton, and condemned the hearing as a “monkey court.”
But watching Barton’s outbursts got me thinking about what the congressman was up to after the last major expansion of public health benefits.
[A] look back at President Bush’s Medicare Part D expansion shows Republicans –including some of the very same committee members holding today’s hearing – defending the need to give new health care programs enough time to succeed. For example, as then-Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) said, “This is a huge undertaking and there are going to be glitches.”
That excerpt comes by way of a new report from American Bridge, a progressive super PAC, which helped document the differences between how congressional Republicans are behaving now as compared to late 2006 and early 2007, when the Bush/Cheney administration was overwhelmed with problems implementing Medicare Part D.
Then, Barton said, “This is a huge undertaking and there are going to be glitches.” Now, when others use those exact same words, Barton condemns the argument as a ridiculous cop-out.
It may be tempting to think the hypocrisy runs both ways on this, but it really doesn’t. In early 2007, Democrats, who opposed and voted against the Bush/Cheney policy, could have taken steps to undermine Part D, but they did the opposite – it was the law of the land and Democratic lawmakers helped implement it.
We just didn’t see Dems throwing these kinds of tantrums at the time, calling on Bush cabinet officials to resign, accusing contractors of crimes, and trying to score cheap points.
As for Barton, who’s perhaps best known for apologizing to BP after its oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, I’ll look forward to his explanation as to why Congress and the nation needed to be patient with Part D breakdowns six years ago, but should be impatient now.