Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) went on quite a tear on the Senate floor. McCain is the author of the first proposed Republican amendment to the Senate health care bill, which, if passed, would send the legislation back to the Finance Committee and have it stripped of hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare savings, most of which come from ending over-payments to private insurers under Medicare Advantage.
"I will eagerly look forward to hearing from the authors of this legislation as to how they can possibly achieve a half a trillion dollars in cuts without impacting existing Medicare programs negatively and eventually lead to rationing of health care in this country," McCain said.
In all likelihood, his amendment would kill the bill. But in any case, it's peculiar that he finds cuts to Medicare so anathema--after all McCain himself proposed
larger cuts many times in the past, including during the 2008 presidential campaign.
So much for that! Now, obviously, insurance companies are all for these over-payments, and Democratic leadership isn't letting McCain off the hook for doing their bidding. Jim Manley, senior spokesman to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, tells me, "the self-described foe of all earmarks is with one single amendment providing a big fat wet kiss for his friends in the insurance industry. All at the expense of millions of senior citizens."
In addition to running for President on a campaign of Medicare cuts, McCain has long cast himself as the scourge of pork-barrel spending. And while over-payments to private insurers aren't earmarks in a technical sense, the meaning won't be lost to observers on the Hill. Still, don't expect the GOP to lay off the flip flops on this issue any time soon.