November 26, 2003,
The Republican Senate voted yesterday to make Uncle Sam even fatter. By a margin of 54 yeas to 44 nays, the Senate approved H.R. 1, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 (MPDIMA). Thus the biggest expansion in the federal welfare state since the Great Society seemingly trapped just days ago in a conference committee now careens toward the Oval Office, where a nearly salivating G.W. Bush awaits with his signature pen at the ready.
This is a dark day for believers in limited government. To see MPDIMA emerge from a reputedly Republican Congress is especially galling.
Still, if there are any rays of sunshine this morning, they are the nine Republicans who voted against this act of fiscal vandalism. Some of them spoke with refreshing candor about this dreadful measure.
"This legislation most reminds me of the ancient medieval practice of leeching," Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) said on the Senate floor Monday. "Every special interest in Washington is attaching itself to this legislation and sucking Medicare dry. We do not need leeching. What we need is reform." "Some are calling this bill the greatest thing since sliced bread," said Senator Lindsey Graham (R., South Carolina). "I think it's going to be more like New Coke. Sounds like a great idea until you actually try it."
"We're adding another floor to a house that isn't built on a stable foundation," Graham added yesterday, after the vote. "Medicare is already scheduled to go bankrupt. Reform of the Medicare system and adding a prescription drug benefit were supposed to go hand-in-hand. Instead of sticking with that approach, we went 180 degrees the other way by adding a costly new benefit and dropping reform."
Graham, a freshman, and the veteran McCain both hail from states full of retirees. These two lawmakers most likely recognize that seniors will find this program unappealing as they traverse its intricacies. At a minimum, Graham and McCain must understand that their constituents will not love MPDIMA so much that they will oust them for opposing its creation. Graham, McCain and seven other Republicans did the right thing on Medicare Tuesday morning. And for that, they deserve the republic's gratitude.
PROFILES IN COURAGEThe following United States senators admirably ignored the pleas of President Bush and the GOP leadership and voted against a new Medicare prescription-drug plan:
Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island
John Ensign of Nevada
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
Judd Gregg of New Hampshire
Chuck Hagel of Nebraska
Trent Lott of Mississippi
John McCain of Arizona
Don Nickles of Oklahoma
John Sununu of New Hampshire
Deroy Murdock is a syndicated columnist with Scripps Howard News Service.