As the smoke cleared after the U.S. House
voted to approve a $400 billion Medicare bill, Idaho Congressman Butch Otter had
some explaining to do.
For awhile, Otter was the guy with his
finger in the dike, holding back more red ink. Yet, in the wee hours of the
morning, he became one of a handful of Republicans who changed their votes after
hours of lobbying by the White House. Until they flip-flopped, the bill was
failing 216 to 218. It passed 220 to 215.
In the face of President Bush’s desperate
last-minute push, Otter twice reiterated his opposition. He opposed the bill
because it makes no provision to pay for the $40 billion a year drug benefit for
senior citizens and it cost too much overall.
Why the change of heart? Otter said he
learned that if the bill weren’t approved, another more expensive Senate bill
supported by moderate Republicans and Democrats would likely be approved.
What a lame excuse. There’s only one way
lawmakers can stop bills that cost too much. There’s only one way they can keep
the public from being fleeced in the name of presidential year politics. That
way is to vote No.
By caving in, Otter joined the rest of
Idaho’s congressional delegation in an orgy of drunken spending under way in the
nation’s capital. The spending spree is projected to push the federal deficit
past $500 billion this year—a number that endows future generations with one of
the world’s worst hangovers.