The Democratic National Committee is hammering John McCain today for supporting stripping all Medicare cuts from the health care bill. The charge is hypocrisy, and it’s sticky: the health care reform McCain proposed during his run for the presidency was going to be paid for with massive Medicare cuts. A lot of the cuts in the Democrats’ bill would be to Medicare Advantage “overpayments” to insurers, which is presumably why Harry Reid’s spokesman, Jim Manley, told TPM’s Brian Beutler that “[McCain,] 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.”
Over at The New Republic, Jon Cohn emphasizes that it’s not just McCain who looks hypocritical here:
McCain has plenty of company in his hypocrisy. As Volsky goes on to note, many of the Republicans likely to vote in favor of McCain’s amendment voted for the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, whichalso called for substantial Medicare cuts. Sam Brownback, Charles Grassley, Jon Kyl… the list goes on….. The reductions in Medicare Republicans are now decrying are more equitable, better targeted, and not even half as large as the ones many of those same Republicans endorsed in the ’90s.
Of course, most seniors won’t know that Republican Senators have voted to cut nearly $1.6 trillion from Medicare during their tenure. The problem, as Cohn points out, is that “seniors on Medicare don’t really care about who’s being intellectually consistent and who’s being hypocritical. They want to know what’s going to happen to their Medicare, period.” That’s one reason the Republicans are demagoguing on this issue. But the other reason is that they see the writing on the wall. Older Americans are already much more conservative than younger Americans, and they are much more likely to vote. It’s fertile recruiting ground. The GOP has had little success reaching out to young people and non-white people. If they can improve their margins among seniors, that might not matter—at least for a while. It’s a lifeline. And in this case, it’s one that, conveniently enough, makes the insurance companies happy.