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McCain's Medicare brinksmanship

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"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.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 5, 2010; 8:36 AM ET
 
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Comments

The Democrats have indicated they plan to use the reconciliation process for STEALING $500 billion dollars FROM MEDICARE to be used as seed money to make their current new entitlement launch look more fiscally responsible than it is!

On top of that, they have loosely promised passing a new costly doctors fix, likely to also come in the reconciliation process due mostly the the ridiculously partisan tone they are setting by blatantly telling lies regarding how their stealing $500 billion dollars from Medicare makes it more solvent, when it does nothing of the sort.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 5, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

John McCain is truly a great American for standing up for Seniors who will suffer the most under Obama and Pelosi's healthcare radicalism.

One only needs to read Obama's own words to see where he plans to get future cost reductions from----eliminate the majority of the free market medical services in the country and then the oomni-potent federal government can tell seniors to die more quickly:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601070&sid=aGrKbfWkzTqc

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | March 5, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

This is disgusting, viewed from the long term perspective. I understand his short term goal is to prevent the fiscal damage to be done by the current bill, and I hope we find some way to do that, even if it's another nominal cap to projections that future legislators will just vote to ignore.

A change to a HSA/FSA type spending account for Medicare would allow consumers to bring the prices down. Other than that, I don't see anyone able to hold prices down in a third party payer system without rationing.

Posted by: staticvars | March 5, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

All politics is local, as we all know by now. McCain is running for his life in that primary in AZ, and what better way to get Grandma away from the nickel slot machines and to the polling place than to try and turn yourself suddenly and dramatically into Medicare's chief defender.

Its hysterical to me that anyone ever believed McCain's act. I hope he loses, even if it causes an even further to the right nut to win.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | March 5, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I don't know how anyone can consider McCain a "fiscal conservative" with a proposal like that.

Medicare accounts for about 80% of long-term budget deficits. It's impossible to address long-term budget balances without addressing Medicare growth rates. Congress doesn't have the guts to reform entitlements with a majority vote. Who thinks they're going to do anything if it requires 60 votes?

Posted by: al444 | March 5, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

THIS is how you hammer people about using an illegitimate parliamentary maneuver. Geez.

Posted by: adamiani | March 5, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Agree with Zeppelin: this seems more about the current campaign McCain is running than the one he lost to Obama.

Posted by: onewing1 | March 5, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Yes, +1 to zeppelin. I agree this explains other recent flip-flops, such as his opposition to repealing DADT.

And yes, it's short-sighted. Just look at California's budget gridlock if you want to see the effect of creating sacred cows in the budget.

Posted by: billkarwin | March 5, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

John McCain was a genuinely interesting Republican politician 10 years ago. It is sad to see what a garden variety old hack he has become.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 5, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm just glad he lost the election. Its obvious that he's immature, egotistical, and completely unfit to put the interests of the nation in front of his own. he might have been worse than Bush.

Posted by: zosima | March 5, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

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