No sooner had our story on five prominent outside-the-Beltway Republicans backing health reform been posted online when an e-mail arrived from Don Stewart, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s communications director.
“I’ll see your five, and raise you several Democratic governors,” wrote Mr. Stewart.
Indeed, the Democrats are having their own troubles keeping their team on the same page regarding President Obama’s effort at health reform. Last week, Democratic governors sent a letter to congressional leaders urging passage of reform this year. But six of the 28 declined to sign: Mike Beebe of Arkansas, Bev Perdue of North Carolina, Brad Henry of Oklahoma, John Lynch of New Hampshire, Jay Nixon of Missouri, and Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming.
Of those, Governor Lynch may be the most interesting. The others represent states that either voted Republican in the last presidential election, or, in the case of North Carolina, Democratic by a hair. But New Hampshire went for Obama by more than nine percentage points. According to the Los Angeles Times, Lynch opted out because the letter failed to “address concerns regarding potential cost shifting to the states,” quoting Lynch’s press secretary.
Numerous governors, both Republican and Democrat, have raised concerns about the proposed expansion of Medicaid, which is partially funded by the states. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the five Republicans who have voiced qualified support for health reform, has also raised the issue of unfunded mandates.
As for Stewart, he notes that the Republicans the White House is touting are not endorsing any of the bills currently in play on Capitol Hill. Some, like former Senate GOP leader Bill Frist, have said nice things about the Senate Finance Committee’s version; Mr. First even said he would vote for it. But he wishes he could change it. For example, he doesn’t think it does enough to bring down healthcare costs.
Stewart notes that Republicans, too, have had plenty to say about the need for change. But “there’s a difference between supporting healthcare reform (Senator McConnell, for example, has given 43 speeches on the Senate floor about the need for healthcare reform) and supporting a bill that cuts a half-trillion dollars from Medicare, raises taxes on job creators, and increases healthcare premiums,” Stewart writes in an e-mail.
“I describe it as the difference between ice cream and rum-raisin ice cream: Everyone likes ice cream, but that doesn’t mean they’ll ever buy rum-raisin ice cream.”
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