Today the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to prevent Medicare premiums from rising. A Congress Daily story explains:
House Democrats pushed through the bill to ensure that the roughly 27 percent of enrollees in Medicare Part B, which covers physician services, will see monthly premiums hold steady at $96.40 instead of rising to as much as $120.
The situation arises because, by law, Part B premiums must account for 25 percent of the program’s cost. Seventy-three percent of seniors are “held harmless” under current law so their benefit checks are not cut if their premiums rise more than their Social Security benefits. The other 27 percent then have to shoulder the entire burden of the program’s cost. That group includes 4.2 million seniors, including those with higher incomes of more than $85,000 for individuals and $170,000 for couples, as well as new enrollees. Another 7.3 million are lower-income beneficiaries whose premiums are funded by Medicaid. Their premium increases would otherwise be funded by the states without the congressional fix.
Yet although this was a Democratic-sponsored bill, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer did not vote for it. The Congress Daily story explains (emphasis added):
A longtime deficit hawk, Hoyer said the country would never get a grip on rising entitlement costs if Congress passes a bill like this. He also said the measure was overly generous to upper-income seniors.
“I felt it my responsibility to come to this floor as someone who speaks about entitlements, as someone who believes we’ve got to exercise fiscal discipline, as someone who believes we ought to take care of the less well off in our country, which is taken care of by the present law,” Hoyer said on the floor. “We have to buck up our courage and our judgment and say, if we take care of everybody, we won’t be able to take care of those who need us most. That’s my concern.”
In fact, four other House Democrats voted “No” on the bill–Brian Baird (WA), Melissa Bean (IL), Baron Hill (IN), and Adam Smith (WA). I think these Democrats can be considered the least deserving of the “cowardly Democrats” label–at least regarding this particular decision on this particular issue. Similarly, I think the 13 Republicans who voted “No”–including the ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan (WI)–are probably the Republicans least deserving of the “hypocrites” label.