An essay by the Rude PunditFor two minutes, the Rude Pundit listened to Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas talk about the "back room deals" and "pay-offs" that got the straggling members of the Democratic caucus to go along with the compromise of the compromise of the compromise of the already-compromised-from-the-start health care reform bill. And then within another minute, he found this on Cornyn's Senate website, which says that Cornyn "Helped create a Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit for Seniors: Senator Cornyn was a strong supporter of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act, which, for the first time, provided Medicare beneficiaries with a prescription drug benefit and expanded health plan options."
And then it took less than another minute to find out some of what it cost to get that 2003 bill passed, with the vote of Cornyn, the proud conservative with a voice that sounds like he's been kicked in the taint by a nervous mule he was standing behind.
To pass the Medicare Prescription Drug bill, there was the $25 billion "rural package," which profited hospitals in southern and western states, with "rural" meaning cities like Corpus Christi, Texas, with a quarter million people. Hell, Chuck Grassley got $151 million for hospitals in Iowa. That's $151 million just for the hospitals, not for, say, a natural disaster fucking up the state's infrastructure. So compare that with the uproar over the $300 million that Democrat Mary Landrieu secured for Katrina-buggered Louisiana in exchange for her vote on 2009's health care reform.
The Bush administration also got $900 million put into the bill essentially so that the White House could reward the districts of loyal Republicans with hospital funds. You wanna talk about bribes? Here's some motherfucking bribes: "Among them were two hospitals in the Texas district of Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a member of the conference committee on the Medicare bill. Ten hospitals in Connecticut, home of US Representative Nancy Johnson, another Republican member of the conference committee, also benefited. Pennsylvania, represented by Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican who had crusaded for health care money, had 13 institutions in the victory column."
By the way, Democrats got their states paid, too. Max Baucus of Montana and Kent Conrad of South Dakota got funds for their states' hospitals, as did Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Harry Reid of Nevada. What did Republicans get for these (to put it politely) fund allocations? All of those Democrats voted for cloture on the conference report. All but Reid voted for the bill.
Let's not forget America's great wilderness welfare state. As an aide to Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski said, "They were counting votes, and the Alaska delegation was pretty set on it." Which meant that Alaska got $53 million over two years for that state's doctors. Goddamn, they must miss Ted Stevens.
While giving money to rural hospitals generally ought to be a good thing, you can be sure that what the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act did, beyond rewarding pharmaceutical companies for being total dickheads, was enrich corporate, for-profit hospital chains. Bitches gots to get paid. And John Cornyn had no problem with it then.
So, now, with the current Senate Health Care Reform bill, where, for instance, Michelle Malkin is screeching about bribes in that brain-damaged ferret way she has, Harry Reid is absolutely right when he says, dismissively, "There are a hundred senators here, and I don’t know if there is a senator who doesn’t have something in this bill that is important to them, and if they don’t have something in it important to them, then that doesn’t speak well of them." Or, in other words, "Suck my balls."
Sure, sure, this is a ludicrous system, where one nutzoid's "bribe" is another Congress member's bread and butter, where every compromise comes down to dollars (or abortion, but that's for another discussion), where compromise in DC simply seems like the art of sacrificing on the left until almost nothing we hold dear remains. Yet it behooves us to remember that we are a nation founded on the most heartbreaking compromise in our history. The Constitution almost didn't come into being, and therefore the United States itself, until abolition of slavery was compromised away, until the horror was actually put into the document.
Why bring this up? For one of those hyperbolic comparisons that blogs are mocked for (even if the breathless rhetoric coming from the GOP and Michael Steele puts bloggery to shame)? No. It's that every compromise, even the most vicious, must leave the lingering question, which will not be answered here: is it better than the alternative, which is failure?