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Unbridled chutzpah on Medicare
GOP lawmakers are going out of their way to whine about a policy they support and complain about "cuts" they voted for. It's going to be a long year.
By Steve Benen
In a letter, the lawmakers urged Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to suspend the administration's "misguided policies" aimed at weakening the Medicare Advantage and prescription drug programs. The letter was signed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (TX), Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (SD), Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso (WY), National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (KS) and Conference Vice Chair Roy Blunt (MO).
I don't mean to sound picky. When Republicans criticize the ideas they oppose, it at least meets some baseline test for rational thought: politicians are supposed to disagree with measures they disagree with.
But Republicans are now deeply engaged in an effort to condemn an idea they've already endorsed and voted for. Worse, they're apparently hoping an epidemic of amnesia sweeps the nation, and journalists and voters lose the ability to use Internet search engines.
At issue are Medicare cost-savings embraced by the Obama administration through the Affordable Care Act. The so-called "cuts" are changes to the way in which the government reimburses insurance companies, which have been overpaid in the Medicare Advantage program.
Republicans know this. In fact, they support the cost-savings, so much so that they incorporated Obama's policy into their own budget plan. GOP lawmakers are now kinda sorta suggesting they want to see increased spending to private insurance companies, but they're not at all serious -- Republicans want to pretend to be outraged, but they're not pushing a bill to reverse the cost-savings and give insurers more cash. They just want voters to think the liberal president who supports socialized medicine is a conservative brute who supports undermining socialized insurance.
Indeed, there's no real ambiguity to the GOP's position: here's the roll call when senators voted just last year on the Republican budget plan, including the Medicare "cuts." Among those supporting the plan were Sens. McConnell, Cornyn, Thune, Barrasso, Moran, and Blunt -- the same six senators who complained about the policy they support yesterday.
Brian Beutler had a good piece yesterday on the party's "staggering chutzpah."
...Republicans have voted for these same cuts many, many times since Obama's been in office, have refused to remove the cuts from their own budgets even as they've attacked Democrats in multiple election cycles for raiding Medicare, and, broadly speaking, support the cuts on the merits. This fundamental inconsistency is well known to reporters, and in many other circumstances that would militate toward nixing the Medicare attacks altogether. But Medicare attacks are unusually politically potent, so Republicans have decided it's worth enduring accusations of hypocrisy if that's what it takes to continue them. That means they need answers for the press, though, and the only way for them to square their budgets and their Medicare attacks is through sheer bamboozlement. They think you don't know how to read a budget, and are too stupid to figure it out.
That may seem crude, but it's entirely accurate. Congressional Republicans -- in both chambers -- are now wholly invested in a Medicare offensive predicated on the assumption that Americans are easily fooled by nonsense.
GOP lawmakers are going out of their way to whine about a policy they support and complain about "cuts" they voted for.