Have we been duped into believing that a lousy Medicare bill is inevitable?
The White House strong-armed the House of Representatives last week into passing-by one vote-a prescription drug plan that will increase government dependency and hasten the demise of the federal treasury.
The Senate-with Majority leader Bill Frists (R.-Tenn.) characteristic lack of independence from Bush-overwhelmingly passed a much, much worse plan, which was so bad as to receive Sen. Ted Kennedys (D.-Mass.) imprimatur.
Conservatives are dreading the final bill that will emerge from the House-Senate conference later this year. If the history of such conferences is any indication, it will end up very short on reform, and very long on free drugs to buy the all-important senior citizen voting bloc in 2004.
So far, Republican lawmakers have been treating Bush as omnipotent and the free drug plan as inevitable. But before they head into conference, they should have a sober look at public opinion on the issue. They might be surprised at what they find.
According to last weeks Zogby poll of 1,007 likely voters-almost completely ignored by the media-77% (80% of seniors) agreed with the statement that “seniors should have to pay something for their prescription drugs to keep the Medicare program from going broke and so the next generation of seniors does not become a greater burden on future taxpayers.”
Whats this? Has Grandma been reading HUMAN EVENTS?
Sixty-six percent of voters responding expressed concern that “a government-provided prescription drug benefit might mean that some people could lose their private health care coverage and become more dependent on government funding.”
The poll found that 51% believe that a government drug benefit would lead to limits on what drugs are available. And 78% agreed that “if the government gets into the business of providing a prescription drug benefit for Medicare???the government would eventually control what drugs are produced and developed.”
Why is Bush trying to steal Ted Kennedys issue when most Americans-even most senior citizens-think Ted Kennedy is wrong?
As the poll shows, the political ground is indeed fertile for conservative arguments on healthcare. These arguments could have been effective, had they been made. And they still might be effective, but only if conservatives in Congress are finally willing to assert the strength of their co-equal branch of government against the executive. Of course, they also must be willing to accept the consequences of the bills defeat, as embarrassing as that could be for a Republican president.
As lawmakers go to conference, theres no need for the Right to roll over and give Bush a bill to sign so that he can declare political victory. As we saw on the House floor last week, the votes are there to force Bush to swallow or at least dramatically scale back the generosity of his prescription drug package.
Let him come to Congress begging from real Republicans for once, instead of from Olympia Snowe.