Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I Love Republicans, Don't You? - Sub Title: Love Your Lobyist And They Love You

But more specifically, I love their benevolent sense of doing what's right for the American people. Don't you? I love their sense of fair play, inclusiveness, and duty to not play politics. I love their uniter, not divider, stance. But most of all, I love their devoted attention to making sure that corporate America wins, despite the cost to us, the American Taxpayer. No doubt, their smart, well thought out policy decisions help us navigate the difficult morase of Medicare.
Never mind the golf junkets and poolside seminars. One of the rawest displays of lobbyists' power in the Capitol occurred beyond the sight of the public last month, when Republican Congressional negotiators tweaked a budget-cutting bill in order to provide the health insurance industry with a $22 billion windfall. The circumstance of this victory by insurance lobbyists is particularly relevant now that the same Congressional leaders are feverishly vowing to enact lobbying reform. The bill change, dearly sought by the H.M.O. industry, was written by House and Senate lawmakers and staff members in closed-door, Republican-only bargaining sessions - one of the "conference committees" for settling differences in final legislation that are themselves becoming part of the Capitol's influence-peddling scandal.

The current version of this deal-setting routine entirely excludes Democratic lawmakers, who are in the minority but still represent significant numbers of Americans. Rather, the lobbyists who successfully worked for a whopping fix in the Medicare reimbursement formula were far more clued in by cooperative Republicans. This is business as usual in Congress; no one is promising hearings about secretive behavior, skulking about in a black hat or hiring defense lawyers.

The bill change might have gone unnoticed but for the fact that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office was doing its job in parsing out the last-minute gutting of a formula that was originally intended to produce a $26 billion savings for taxpayers across 10 years. Instead, the final bargainers reduced the projected savings to $4 billion and handed the H.M.O.'s a $22 billion gift by protecting the inflated reimbursements they currently reap through Medicare.
Maybe the American people need to band together to get their own lobyists.

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