House Republicans Make Stand on Medicare

Published January 1, 2004

When the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the Medicare bill on November 22, 25 principled Republicans voted “no.”

Despite overwhelming pressure from their party, the liberal media, and the AARP, a handful of House Republicans refused to swallow this bitter medicine. President George W. Bush wanted it badly. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) wanted it. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) wanted it, too. The measure ultimately passed the House by a vote of 220-215.

U.S. House Republicans Who Voted Against Medicare Reform
Jeff Flake (R-Arizona)
John Shadegg (R-Arizona)
Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colorado)
Thomas Tancredo (R-Colorado)
Tom Feeney (R-Florida)
Jeff Miller (R-Florida)
Charles Norwood (R-Georgia)
Dan Burton (R-Indiana)
John Hostettler (R-Indiana)
Mike Pence (R-Indiana)
Jerry Moran (R-Kansas)
Jim Ryun (R-Kansas)
Nick Smith (R-Michigan)
Gil Gutknecht (R-Minnesota)
Todd Akin (R-Missouri)
Jo Ann Emerson (R-Missouri)
Walter Jones (R-North Carolina)
Scott Garrett (R-New Jersey)
Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)
Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania)
J. Gresham Barrett (R-South Carolina)
Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina)
Zach Wamp (R-Tennessee)
John Culberson (R-Texas)
Ron Paul (R-Texas)

Congressional leaders even named this bill H.R. 1 to emphasize its priority. Trying to attract the senior citizen vote, Congress was determined to create a new drug benefit for Medicare. In November, the Washington establishment lined up to pass a flawed bill that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars and disrupt the existing drug coverage currently enjoyed by most seniors.

Scott Garrett (R-New Jersey) voted against the measure, explaining:

“My ‘no’ vote was based on a [Medicare] plan that will create additional fiscal burdens, not less, and is both unnecessary and potentially harmful for most seniors who already have prescription drug coverage. Passing the wrong plan won’t help anyone. Rather, it will just speed us towards bankrupting the system–leaving every senior now and in the future without coverage. The real result of this Medicare plan is a lower standard of living for our grandchildren. They are the ones who will be stuck with the fiscal burden brought on by this socialized Medicare package.”

The Heritage Foundation reports H.R. 1 will cost taxpayers $2 trillion through 2030 alone, with “escalating costs thereafter.” Instead of H.R. 1, House leaders should have numbered the bill H.R. 2026, signifying the year that Medicare Part A goes completely bankrupt.

It didn’t have to be this way. In late 2002, Bush floated a real Medicare reform proposal, one that created a prescription drug benefit within a competitive, innovative system that gave seniors real choices. If Bush, who faces an extremely competitive election next year, could back such a plan, then surely the politicians serving on Capitol Hill could fall in line. But lacking both courage and imagination, most Congressional Republicans ran for the woods and into the embrace of the AARP.

The majority in Congress has completely lost its direction on spending and size-of-government issues. Discretionary government spending has increased a staggering 27 percent over the past two years.

The Medicare bill will hasten America’s fiscal fiasco and backfire politically on those who supported it. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, chairman of Citizens for a Sound Economy, elaborated on that point recently, telling the media, “Bad policy is not good politics. This Medicare bill is misguided and will ultimately do more harm than good. Unfortunately, the end result will be that many seniors will have fewer choices and will end up losing their existing drug coverage.”

Still, a few Members of Congress stood firm on their limited government principles and voted against the bill. For them, as they faced party leaders and the special interests, it was a truly “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” situation. Knight-Ridder described one moment, when Florida freshman Rep. Tom Feeney received a phone call from President Bush, who was lobbying for the bill. Feeney listened, then told the President, “I came to Washington not to ratify and expand Great Society programs, but to get rid of programs that don’t work and reform the ones that do.”

That’s great stuff. Similarly, the men and women listed here all made, in political terms, a heroic vote for the sake of a principle. For the idea of fiscal responsibility and limited, prudent government, these Members voted against their party, their leadership, and the special interests rejoicing in trillions of dollars stolen from future generations.

Chris Kinnan is director of public affairs for Citizens for a Sound Economy. His email address is [email protected]. For information about CSE, visit its Web site at