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So the House passed the new $400 billion entitlement program. Here's how it happened.

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Arm-Twisting and Vote-Switching on RX Drug Entitlement

So the House passed the new $400 billion entitlement program. Here’s how it happened.

The final vote on the bill to create the largest new entitlement in decades was 220-215, but it was even closer than that for most of Saturday morning.

Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind.), who spearheaded the conservative opposition to the prescription drug entitlement (H.R.  1) in the House, called his own efforts a “successful failure.” Pointing out that the conservative opposition to the bill grew by six votes since June, he compared the stand by 25 principled House conservatives against the bill to the battle of the Alamo. The new votes for the bill, whose earlier version passed by just one vote in June, came from Democrats who had opposed it before.

The House leadership had to keep the vote on H.R.  1 open for nearly three hours, during which House leaders and administration officials twisted arms and offered extra pork in exchange for votes. The bill seemed on its way to failure-216 to 218-for two full hours, until some Democrats and a few Republicans changed their votes a few minutes before 6 a.m.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson succeeded in wooing several Democrats to vote for the bill who had opposed it in the past. He reportedly did this, House sources tell HUMAN EVENTS, by “handing out” over a billion dollars worth of discretionary spending to anyone willing to switch.

On the Republican side, threats carried the day. That prompted Rep. Pat Toomey (R.-Pa.) and Pence, along with 23 others, to leave the Capitol building and seclude themselves at a Chinese restaurant on Pennsylvania Ave. for part of the evening. They avoided constant reproaches from the likes of Thompson and the House Republican leaders for a few hours, but they could not avoid the hours of threats dealt out on the House floor.

Among those treated most brutally was Rep. Nick Smith (R.-Mich.). Although Smith is retiring next year, his son Brad hopes to win his safe 7th district seat by surviving a crowded Republican primary.

“It’s pretty personal,” Smith told Human Events. Smith was told that his son would get “almost unlimited financial support, plus some nationally recognized names to endorse him,” if Rep. Smith would just vote for the drug bill. “This comes after [Brad] had sold part of his property to put his own $100,000 into his campaign,” he said. But when Brad learned about the deal being offered, he called his father. “He said, ‘Hey, Dad, you stick to your guns and do the right thing. I don’t want to go to Congress that way.’ That increased my resolve for sure.”

Smith stood firm and voted “no.” “The only sad part is that I may have hurt Brad’s chances of getting in, because some of the members were pretty adamant that they were going to work to make sure he didn’t,” said Smith. He would not specify whether the members in question were other Michigan congressmen.

More pressure came down on the conservatives when the National Right to Life Committee announced it might score the vote on its congressional scorecard. In other words, congressmen voting “no” on the bill would look like they had cast a vote against the right to life.

“I’m very curious about what their position on the omnibus [spending] bill will be,” deadpanned Pence, one of the most outspoken pro-lifers in Congress. “I want to protect my pro-life voting record.”

Among the Republicans who changed their votes on the floor were Trent Franks (Ariz.) and Butch Otter (Idaho). Franks held out for much of the evening, but after a full night of being lobbied intensely, he took Pence aside and told him he was going to switch.

For Otter, this represents the second time has switched his vote from “no” to “yes” on the prescription drug entitlement. He switched his vote after telling HUMAN EVENTS’ John Gizzi that he would vote against the bill.

Also of interest are Republican Congressmen Richard Burr (N.C.), Steve Buyer (Ind.), and James Sensenbrenner (Wis.). All three voted against a similar bill in June, then turned around and voted for this bill, even though it is worse than its earlier version in several respects. Also, Rep. Ernest Istook (R.-Okla.) voted in favor, even though he opposed the bill in June.

Rep. John Culberson (R.-Tex.) changed his vote the opposite way, from “yes” to “no,” at the last minute, once the bill’s passage was ensured. His staff had no explanation.

On the other hand, in addition to the 16 Republicans who stayed solid throughout, nine GOP lawmakers found their courage in the fall and switched to vote “no” on this final version of the bill. They include Pat Toomey (Pa.) and freshmen Scott Garrett (N.J.), Gresham Barrett (S.C.), and Tom Feeney (Fla.), among others. These freshmen were pushed hardest to change their votes, but refused.

“I came to Washington to reform Great Society programs, not to ratify and enlarge them,” said Feeney in a written statement released the same day the vote was taken. Pence told Human Events that Feeney, who stood with him on the House floor throughout the three-hour vote, warded off those pressuring him with the same line: “This isn’t about my career-it’s about my country.”

A Bad Bill

The prescription drug bill, covered extensively by HUMAN EVENTS, represents the most expensive vote-buying measure since President Lyndon Johnson. U.S. Comptroller General David Walker testified before Congress in 2001 that Medicare’s liabilities “represent an unsustainable burden on future generations.”

Thanks to this added entitlement, the program will bankrupt the treasury even more quickly, all but ensuring a payroll tax-hike on younger workers within 30 years.

This bill is being enacted by the first Republican controlled government since the Eisenhower administration.

Most Democrats opposed the bill, but only because they wanted an even bigger new entitlement. Also, House Democrats did not want President Bush to get credit for the bill among the senior citizen voters who stand to gain.

Below is the tally of the House vote, by party and position. A “yes” vote was a vote for the new, government-expanding entitlement. A “no” vote was a vote against the entitlement.

FOR THE BILL: 220 AGAINST THE BILL: 215
REPUBLICANS FOR: 204
Aderholt
Bachus
Baker
Ballenger
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
Burr
Buyer
Calvert
Camp
Cannon
Cantor
Capito
Carter
Castle
Chocola
Coble
Cole
Collins
Cox
Crane
Crenshaw
Cubin
Cunningham
Davis, Jo Ann
Davis, Tom
Deal (GA)
DeLay
Diaz-Balart, L.
Diaz-Balart, M.
Doolittle
Dreier
Duncan
Dunn
Ehlers
English
Everett
Ferguson
Fletcher
Foley
Forbes
Fossella
Franks (AZ)
Frelinghuysen
Gallegly
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
Istook
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
McInnis
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
Sensenbrenner
Sessions
Shaw
Shays
Sherwood
Shimkus
Shuster
Simmons
Simpson
Smith (NJ)
Smith (TX)
Souder
Stearns
Sullivan
Sweeney
Tauzin
Taylor (NC)
Terry
Thomas
Thornberry
Tiahrt
Tiberi
Turner (OH)
Upton
Vitter
Walden (OR)
Walsh
Weldon (FL)
Weldon (PA)
Weller
Whitfield
Wicker
Wilson (NM)
Wilson (SC)
Wolf
Young (AK)
Young (FL)

DEMOCRATS FOR: 16
Alexander
Boucher
Boyd
Carson (OK)
Cramer
Davis (TN)
Dooley (CA)
Hall
John
Marshall
Matheson
Peterson (MN)
Pomeroy
Scott (GA)
Stenholm
Wu

REPUBLICANS AGAINST: 25
Akin
Barrett (SC)
Burton (IN)
Chabot
Culberson
DeMint
Emerson
Feeney
Flake
Garrett (NJ)
Gutknecht
Hostettler
Jones (NC)
Miller (FL)
Moran (KS)
Musgrave
Norwood
Paul
Pence
Ryun (KS)
Shadegg
Smith (MI)
Tancredo
Toomey
Wamp

DEMOCRATS AGAINST: 190
Abercrombie
Ackerman
Allen
Andrews
Baca
Baird
Baldwin
Ballance
Becerra
Bell
Berkley
Berman
Berry
Bishop (GA)
Bishop (NY)
Blumenauer
Boswell
Brady (PA)
Brown, Corrine
Brown (OH)
Capps
Capuano
Cardin
Cardoza
Carson (IN)
Case
Clay
Clyburn
Conyers
Cooper
Costello
Crowley
Cummings
Davis (AL)
Davis (CA)
Davis (FL)
Davis (IL)
DeFazio
DeGette
Delahunt
DeLauro
Deutsch
Dicks
Dingell
Doggett
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
Israel
Jackson (IL)
Jackson-Lee (TX)
Jefferson
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
Lucas (KY)
Lynch
Majette
Maloney
Markey
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 (VA)
Serrano
Sherman
Skelton
Slaughter
Smith (WA)
Snyder
Solis
Spratt
Stark
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
Wynn

INDEPENDENTS AGAINST: 1
Sanders

NOT VOTING: 0

Written By

Mr. Freddoso is the senior political reporter for the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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