Roll Calls: House, Senate Each Pass Versions of Prescription Drug Benefit Programs

On June 26 (and into the morning of June 27), the House of Representatives had a long night, complete with debating, haggling, pleading, pressuring and eventually pushing the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act (H.R. 1) through by a one-vote margin. Two conservatives changed their vote from “no” to “aye,” while another simply voted “present.”

President George W. Bush’s political support from the elderly weighed heavily on this bill, and his congressional allies made sure he had it. The voting time period, which normally lasts around 15 minutes, was open for nearly an hour, allowing the pressure on the floor to mount. Rumors swirled the following day that several Bush backers in Congress put enormous pressure on teetering voters, eventually causing the two mind-changes.

The Senate passed a similar bill through on the same night, although its version was more generous than the House’s. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass.) led the liberals in support of the bill, and, combined with the backing of Bush’s minions, it passed easily.

Members from the House and Senate now have to decide on a compromise between the two versions of the bill and submit it to be signed by President Bush. The final version is expected to look more like the House version, since House conservatives won’t let anything less pass through with the necessary majority.

Regardless of how the package ends up, this bill that forces healthy taxpayers to buy drugs for the unhealthy will almost certainly balloon the welfare state of the United States.

House Passes Medicare Bill by One Vote after Bush’s Lobby

In the wee hours of June 27, by a vote of 216 to 215, the House narrowly passed the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act (H.R. 1), a bill similar to the Senate’s version (see rollcall at left) that passed by a much larger margin on the same day.

The bill, with a prescription drug entitlement that will inevitably inflate the nation’s welfare state, was strongly supported by President George W. Bush, apparently because he believes it is necessary to obtain support from the elderly in ’04. On June 25, Bush held a private meeting with about 20 dissatisfied House conservatives to try to persuade them to support the bill, and his pleadings worked. Several conservatives came to support the bill, and Reps. Butch Otter (R.-Idaho) and Jo Ann Emerson (R.-Mo.) actually changed their votes from “no” to “aye” after extensive pressure from Bush’s minions on the Hill. (In fact, the Washington Post reported on June 28 that Emerson was actually “in tears” at one point in these discussions, a contention her office denies.)

The House rollcall was actually held open for a full hour, to give the President’s men time to cajole, beg and threaten congressmen until they supported his initiative.

Conservatives had so much sway in this vote-and could have defeated it with a single “no” vote-because Democrats had decided generally not to support it. Although Democrats approve in principle of a new prescription drug benefit, they were upset that the bill has some conservative, market-based reforms to Medicare and is not as liberal as the Senate measure.

“Our seniors know that Democrats have worked to provide them with universal, affordable, and reliable drug coverage,” said Rep. Pat Kennedy (D.-R.I.), after earlier denouncing his father, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass.)’s support of the Senate version of the bill. “[The seniors] know that this bill is just another Republican attempt to dismantle Medicare.”

Rep. Mark Foley (R.-Fla.), whose 5th District has the fifth-largest population of U.S. Medicare recipients, even denied that the bill provided free drugs for senior citizens.

“When I go to town hall meetings, they do not ask for anything free,” he said. “They want a break, they want a discount, they want an opportunity to shop. But they want security to know they will not go broke. This bill provides that.”

Leftist Rep. Pete Stark (D.-Calif.) said the bill, “is a hoax; is phony. There is nothing in this bill that provides a drug benefit to the seniors. Perhaps they will give the Republicans enough campaign money or promises to get them to change this in the future, but right now, sexual favors will not do it; nothing will do it.”

“This bill is just another Republican scheme to deceive our seniors, to deceive our elderly,” Rep. John Lewis (D.-Ga.) said. “Old-fashioned Medicare was like a bridge over troubled waters. It was dependable then, and it is still dependable. Do not turn your back on our seniors, on the elderly.”

Despite the hundreds of millions the bill dispenses to the elderly, the Democrats literally were screaming and yelling against it, apparently fearing that they were about to lose a major political issue- one they hoped could turn Republicans out in the next election.

A “yes” vote was a vote in favor of the House bill to provide a taxpayer-funded prescription drug plan to senior citizens. A “no” vote was a vote in opposition to the bill that will permanently expand the welfare state.


REPUBLICANS FOR (207): Aderholt, Akin, Bachus, Baker, Ballenger, Barrett (SC), Bartlett (MD), Barton (TX), Bass, Beauprez, Bereuter, Biggert, Bilirakis, Bishop (UT), Blackburn, Blunt, Boehlert, Boehner, Bonilla, Bonner, Bono, Boozman, Bradley (NH), Brady (TX), Brown (SC), Brown-Waite, V., Burgess, Burns, Calvert, Camp, Cannon, Cantor, Capito, Carter, Castle, Chabot, Chocola, Coble, Cole, Collins, Cox, Crane, Crenshaw, Cubin, Culberson, Cunningham, Davis, Jo Ann, Davis, Tom, Deal (GA), DeLay, Diaz-Balart, L., Diaz-Balart, M., Doolittle, Dreier, Duncan, Dunn, Ehlers, Emerson, English, Everett, Feeney, Ferguson, Fletcher, Foley, Forbes, Fossella, Franks (AZ), Frelinghuysen, Gallegly, Garrett (NJ), Gerlach, Gibbons, Gilchrest, Gillmor, Gingrey, Goode, Goodlatte, Goss, Granger, Graves, Green (WI), Greenwood, Harris, Hart, Hastert, Hastings (WA), Hayes, Hayworth, Hefley, Hensarling, Herger, Hobson, Hoekstra, Houghton, Hulshof, Hunter, Hyde, Isakson, Issa, Janklow, Jenkins, Johnson, Sam, Johnson (CT), Johnson (IL), Keller, Kelly, Kennedy (MN), King (IA), King (NY), Kingston, Kirk, Kline, Knollenberg, Kolbe, LaHood, Latham, LaTourette, Leach, Lewis (CA), Lewis (KY), Linder, LoBiondo, Lucas (OK), Manzullo, McCotter, McCrery, McHugh, McKeon, Mica, Miller, Gary, Miller (MI), Murphy, Myrick, Nethercutt, Neugebauer, Ney, Northup, Nunes, Nussle, Osborne, Ose, Otter, Oxley, Pearce, Peterson (PA), Petri, Pickering, Pitts, Platts, Pombo, Porter, Portman, Pryce (OH), Putnam, Quinn, Radanovich, Ramstad, Regula, Rehberg, Renzi, Reynolds, Rogers (AL), Rogers (KY), Rogers (MI), Rohrabacher, Ros-Lehtinen, Royce, Ryan (WI), Saxton, Schrock, Sessions, Shaw, Shays, Sherwood, Shimkus, Shuster, Simmons, Simpson, Smith (NJ), Smith (TX), Souder, Stearns, Sullivan, Sweeney, Tauzin, Taylor (NC), Terry, Thomas, Thornberry, Tiahrt, Tiberi, Toomey, Turner (OH), Upton, Vitter ,Walden (OR), Walsh, Wamp, Weldon (FL), Weldon (PA), Weller, Whitfield, Wicker, Wilson (NM), Wilson (SC), Wolf, Young (AK)

DEMOCRATS FOR (9): Alexander, Boswell, Cramer, Hall, Israel, Lucas (KY), Matheson, Peterson (MN), Pomeroy


REPUBLICANS AGAINST (19): Burr, Burton (IN), Buyer, DeMint, Flake, Gutknecht, Hostettler, Jones (NC), Miller (FL), Moran (KS), Musgrave, Norwood, Paul, Pence, Ryun (KS), Sensenbrenner, Shadegg, Smith (MI), Tancredo

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (195): Abercrombie, Ackerman, Allen, Andrews, Baca, Baird, Baldwin, Balance, Becerra, Bell, Berkley, Berman, Berry, Bishop (GA), Bishop (NY), Blumenauer, Boucher, Boyd, Brady (PA), Brown, Corrine, Brown (OH), Capps, Capuano, Cardin, Cardoza, Carson (IN), Carson (OK), Case, Clay ,Clyburn, Conyers, Cooper, Costello, Crowley, Cummings, Davis (AL), Davis (CA), Davis (FL), Davis (IL), Davis (TN), DeFazio, DeGette, Delahunt, DeLauro, Deutsch, Dicks, Dingell, Doggett, Dooley (CA), Doyle, Edwards, Emanuel, Engel, Eshoo, Etheridge, Evans, Farr, Fattah, Filner, Ford, Frank (MA), Frost, Gephardt, Gonzalez, Gordon, Green (TX), Grijalva, Gutierrez, Harman, Hastings (FL), Hill, Hinchey, Hinojosa, Hoeffel, Holden, Holt, Honda, Hooley (OR), Hoyer, Inslee, Jackson (IL), Jackson-Lee (TX), Jefferson, John, Johnson, E. B., Jones (OH), Kanjorski, Kaptur, Kennedy (RI), Kildee, Kilpatrick, Kind, Kleczka, Kucinich, Lampson, Langevin, Lantos, Larsen (WA), Larson (CT), Lee, Levin, Lewis (GA), Lipinski, Lofgren, Lowey, Lynch, Majette, Maloney, Markey, Marshall, Matsui, McCarthy (MO), McCarthy (NY), McCollum, McDermott, McGovern, McIntyre, McNulty, Meehan, Meek (FL), Meeks (NY), Menendez, Michaud, Millender-McDonald, Miller, George, Miller (NC), Mollohan, Moore, Moran (VA), Murtha, Nadler, Napolitano, Neal (MA), Oberstar, Obey, Olver, Ortiz, Owens, Pallone, Pascrell, Pastor, Payne, Pelosi, Price (NC), Rahall, Rangel, Reyes, Rodriguez, Ross, Rothman, Roybal-Allard, Ruppersberger, Rush, Ryan (OH), Sabo, Sanchez, Linda, Sanchez, Loretta, Sandlin, Schakowsky, Schiff, Scott (GA), Scott (VA), Serrano, Sherman, Skelton, Slaughter, Snyder, Solis, Spratt, Stark, Stenholm, Strickland, Stupak, Tanner, Tauscher, Taylor (MS), Thompson (CA), Thompson (MS), Tierney, Towns, Turner (TX), Udall (CO), Udall (NM), Van Hollen, Velazquez, Visclosky, Waters, Watson, Watt, Waxman, Weiner, Wexler, Woolsey, Wu, Wynn





REPUBLICANS (2): McInnis, Young (FL)

DEMOCRATS (1): Smith (WA)

Senate Passes Own Version of Medicare Bill by Sizable Margin

On June 27, by a vote of 76 to 21, the Senate, with Democratic support easily passed its version of the Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003 (S. 1) that was backed by President George W. Bush. A similar bill passed by just one vote in the House on the same evening (see rollcall at left), though the Senate’s version is much costlier and government-oriented than the House’s.

The bill calls for a generous taxpayer-funded prescription drug entitlement for senior citizens, and would amend title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act to supposedly make improvements in the Medicare program.

Whereas the majority of House Democrats fiercely opposed the Republican bill, all but a handful of Senate liberals backed this version. If passed, the Senate bill will certainly balloon an already-inflated welfare state even more than the House version.

Under the Senate plan, a senior citizen making $100,000 a year-or even $2 million a year-and buying $4,000 of prescription drugs, would pay only $275 for his drugs. Young working families would pay for the rest.

Supporters such as Sen. Chuck Grassley (R.-Iowa) talked about the amount of competition that the plan introduces into the traditionally government-funded program, and suggested that competition between different managed health plans would help reduce costs for the elderly.

“Keeping costs down is essential because what I hear from the seniors in Iowa is not about a specific program,” he said. “It is: ‘Why are prescription drug costs so high?’ Keeping drug costs down is essential, not just for seniors but for the program as a whole.”

“Medicare, as it was developed in the 1960s, is basically for acute care or hospital care,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D.-N.D.). “The medical model has changed dramatically since then and so must Medicare. It is now time to put a prescription drug benefit in the program.”

Fellow liberal Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D.-Mich.), while standing up for the new Medicare plan, proceeded to criticize Bush’s 2001 tax cuts.

“It is a bigger priority to provide tax cuts for the wealthiest, the privileged few of our country,” she said, “rather than helping many of our seniors and the disabled to put money in their pockets through prescription drug coverage. [The 2001 tax cuts] resulted this year in the highest single-year deficit in the history of our country.”

But Sen. Judd Gregg (R.-N.H.) put Stabenow’s remarks in the correct context: “How do we make sure that in [creating a prescription drug entitlement] we don’t set up a situation where the next generation of young people-these folks who are in high school and college today-end up with a tax burden so large that we significantly reduce the quality of their life?” he asked.

A “yes” vote was in favor of creating a new prescription drug entitlement for senior citizens. A “no” vote was a vote to avoid a drastic increase in taxpayer-funded drugs for the elderly.


REPUBLICANS FOR (40): Alexander, Allen, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Campbell, Chafee, Chambliss, Cochran, Coleman, Collins, Craig, Crapo, DeWine, Dole, Domenici, Enzi, Fitzgerald, Frist, Grassley, Hagel, Hatch, Hutchison, Kyl, Lugar, McConnell, Murkowski, Roberts, Sessions, Shelby, Smith, Snowe, Specter, Stevens, Talent, Thomas, Voinovich, and Warner.

DEMOCRATS FOR (35): Akaka, Baucus, Bayh, Biden, Bingaman, Boxer, Breaux, Cantwell, Carper, Conrad, Corzine, Daschle, Dayton, Dodd, Dorgan, Durbin, Feingold, Feinstein, Inouye, Johnson, Kennedy, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Leahy, Lincoln, Mikulski, Miller, Murray, Nelson (Fla.), Nelson (Neb.), Pryor, Reid (Nev.), Schumer, Stabenow, and Wyden.

INDEPENDENT FOR (1): Jeffords.


REPUBLICANS AGAINST (10): Allard, Cornyn, Ensign, Graham (S.C.), Gregg, Lott, McCain, Nickles, Santorum, and Sununu.

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (11): Byrd, Clinton, Edwards, Graham (Fla.), Harkin, Hollings, Kohl, Levin, Reed (R.I.), Rockefeller, and Sarbanes.

NOT VOTING (3): Inhofe, Kerry, and Lieberman.