Democrats are calling out Republican opponents of the health care reform bill as hypocrites, pointing out that 24 of them voted for the major Medicare expansion six years ago, when they controlled the Senate, the House, and the White House, that has added tens of billions of dollars to the deficit. Unlike the Democrats' bill, the 2003 Medicare drug program had no tax or spending offsets at all, making it wholly deficit-financed. Where were the deficit hawks then, the Dems want to know.
The AP asked a few Republicans what the difference was. Six years ago, "it was standard practice not to pay for things," Sen. Orrin Hatch says in response, adding that his 2003 vote has been vindicated because the prescription drug benefit "has done a lot of good." Sen. George Voinovich says the difference is that the economy is in worse shape and Americans are more anxious. The political situation is different now, Sen. Olympia Snowe says, because "we're in a tough climate and people are angry and frustrated." But not all conservatives are buying. "As far as I am concerned, any Republican who voted for the Medicare drug benefit has no right to criticize anything the Democrats have done in terms of adding to the national debt," says Reagan and Bush I veteran Bruce Bartlett, calling the Medicare expansion "a pure giveaway" that cost more than this year's Senate or House health bills will cost.