McCain's Medicare brinksmanship
"No problem is in more need of attention and action by Congress than the looming financial challenges of entitlement programs," reads John McCain's campaign Web site. But back in Congress, McCain isn't exactly making good on that promise: He has turned his attention to Medicare, and the action he has proposed will make the looming financial challenges of entitlement programs virtually impossible to correct.
Last night, John McCain introduced an amendment that makes Medicare immune to the reconciliation process. That's all fine, except for McCain's record: Of the nine reconciliation bills McCain has voted to pass during his time in office, four of them included substantial cuts to Medicare. For those keeping score at home, they were the Balanced Budget Act of 1995, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The Balanced Budget Act of 1995, in particular, included many more cuts to Medicare than anything on the table today. Now he's saying that "entitlements should not be part of a reconciliation process." They're "too important."
The issue here isn't mere hypocrisy. It's dangerous shortsightedness. If McCain wants to try to strip the Medicare reforms from the health-care bill, that's his right. But to render Medicare untouchable to the reconciliation process will hamstring future congresses that need to make tough decisions to avert the consequences of the program's substantial deficit. In his zeal to attack the health-care reform bill, McCain is making it harder to address our entitlement spending. It's wildly irresponsible and shreds whatever remaining credential McCain had as a deficit hawk.
McCain may know that the campaign is over. But it's increasingly clear that he's not over it.
Photo credit: AP Photo.
March 5, 2010; 8:36 AM ET
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