Public Citizens Sues Over S.1932

Just yesterday I was wondering why no one had filed a lawsuit in re S.1932, (also known by the laughably Orwellian nickname "Deficit Reduction Act of 2005").  Why was I contemplating a lawsuit?  Because the bill the President signed was not the same in the House and Senate version - a basic constitutional requirement that one learns about in junior high civics.

Today, though, my question was answered.

Public Citizen has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  From their press release:

A law President Bush signed on Feb. 8 is invalid because he signed a version of the bill that was passed by the U.S. Senate but not the U.S. House of Representatives, Public Citizen told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a lawsuit filed today. The law, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, decreases student loan and Medicare spending, extends welfare cuts and cuts federal funding of state child-support enforcement programs.

Say what you want about the Republican plan to slash funding for Medicare and student loans, but the fact of the matter is that the bill signed by the President is prima facie invalid.

Those so inclined can read the complaint in its entirety here.

This shouldn't be a controversial case.  Even the conservative American Enterprise Institute has called this affair rotten.  One wonders why the Republicans are so adamant about ignoring the rule of law.  For a more in depth look at the questions involved, I recommend you take a moment to read Marty Lederman's original post from when the bill was signed.  This should be an interesting case to follow.

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Frist has a plan for Medicare...

Not that I think he'll be the 08 GOP candidate. But his idea sounds too tempting for his winning rival to go all Not Invented Here.

According to Brownstein,

Frist wants to allow private insurers to compete more directly with the government in providing healthcare to seniors.

Brownstein offers fibrillating readers the assurance that

Washington isn't likely to provide private insurance companies a larger role in Medicare until they prove they can smooth out their administration of the new prescription drug benefit.

Yup.

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Medicare amnesia afflicts Dems

One reads in the Post (albeit on A13 on the dead-tree) a straightish half dozen or so grafs saying that Democrats are stepping up their attacks on the Medicare drug benefit.

It was a ghastly piece of corporate welfare, to be paid for by a carefully selected group of the most vulnerable Americans. And everyone who was paying the least attention knew this at the time. A thoroughly corrupt piece of business, even if completely legal.

Leading the charge for the Dems in the Senate is, one reads, Dorgan of ND, who organised (unipartisan) hearings yesterday to which he

invited a Fargo pharmacist to describe day-to-day problems, including how some pharmacists must take out bank loans to cover reimbursement delays. "This is simply unacceptable," Dorgan said.

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Bill Frist, Brilliant Political Strategist

It's not very often that we here at MyDD come up with the same conclusions as the folks over at RedState. But last week, I had to agree when Blanton wrote a piece that described Bill Frist as hapless and inept, and that he's "failed to be a real leader" in the Senate. My opinion of Frist as a moron was supported yesterday morning when he announced that the Republican's Medicare Part D (that's 'D' for 'debacle') program will wind up being "a huge plus" for his party.

Early problems were inevitable when 25 million people were moved into a new government program, said Frist, R-Tenn.

Seniors have complained of confusion while sorting through a myriad of private options offered in the prescription drug program. And many needy people ran into problems when they were switched over from their drug benefits within Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, to the new Medicare drug benefit.

"There are all sorts of stumbles and glitches and there is confusion," said Frist, who added that a million prescriptions are being delivered daily and seniors will appreciate the program six months from now.

As Jonathan has discussed in some depth, the polling indicates that this program is not a popular one. The most recent Gallup polling found that 54% believe the program is "not working." Of those 65 and older, who are eligible to sign up for the program, 55% do not plan to do so. And the last time I checked, this type of policy failure doesn't typically translate into "a huge plus" politically.

Frist's oddball contention is also at odds with what most Beltway insiders are thinking about the meaning of the Medicare drug bill for the GOP. An article by Robin Toner in the New York Times suggests that not only will it not be "a huge plus" for the GOP, but that it could endanger the party at the least opportune time -- during the upcoming midterm elections.

Older voters, a critical component of Republican Congressional victories for more than a decade, could end up being a major vulnerability for the party in this year's midterm elections, according to strategists in both parties. Paradoxically, one reason is the new Medicare drug benefit, which was intended to cement their loyalty. ...

President Bush's failed effort to create private accounts in Social Security last year was also unpopular with many older Americans. That, in addition to confusion over the drug benefit, has "taken the key swing vote that's been trending the Republicans' way and put it at risk for the next election," said Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster. "And what that means is Republicans are going to have to work extra hard."

Like Jonathan, I'm not ready to say that Medicare Part D will chase seniors back into the arms of waiting Democrats. (If it does, that's the kind of demographic shift that would indicate we might be looking at a change election.) But the fact that Frist is pathetically trying to spin the Medicare drug disaster in favor of the very people who set it in motion indicates that the Republican leadership no longer knows which end is up.

Don't forget that Frist is leaving the Senate to focus full-time on a 2008 Presidential run. If he's not knocked out of contention by his stock scandal, he will be one of the front runners for his party's nomination. If Frist is among the best they've got, this type of foolish messaging would indicate they're in more than a bit of trouble.

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Let's Bring Seniors Back Home

In 2004, the age group among which George W. Bush performed best were older voters -- those aged 60 and above. Among this segment, which made up just under a quarter of the electorate on election day, the President bested John Kerry by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin.

As I noted last month, much of this strength in the polls could be tied to high expectations for the coming Medicare prescription drug plan, which was devised by the Bush White House and rammed through Congress with minimal Democratic support. As a result of the highly partisan nature of the bill's passage, it was no wonder that older voters switched their voting pattern in 2004 and backed Republicans in nearly unprecedented numbers (remember that Al Gore carried older voters by a healthy margin in 2000).

New polling indicates, however, that seniors are ready to come home to the Democratic Party. Similar to the polling referenced in my post last month, which found that a vast majority of older voters found the Republican Rx plan confusing, the latest polling on the bungled program shows older voters particularly disapproving.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, which is deeply involved in healthcare around the country, commissioned a poll this month studying Americans' attitudes towards the new program, and the results of the survey are quite interesting. Among Americans aged 65 and older, only about a third understand the new program, while three-fifths do not. Even more noteworthy, among this same subset of voters, only 23 percent hold a favorable view towards the program while almost twice as many hold an unfavorable view towards it.

In order to maximize their electoral potential for 2006, the Democrats must tap into seniors' widespread discontent and confusion about the Republican-envisioned Medicare prescription drug plan. And there is quite a bit of room for Democratic growth among seniors this November. A cursory look at exit polling from the last two presidential elections finds that had John Kerry performed as well among seniors as had Al Gore (just 52 percent of the two-party popular vote), he would have received a full 1.5 percent more of the popular vote -- perhaps enough to have shifted a key swing state or two in the direction of the Democrats, thus possibly changing the outcome of the election. Given the fact that a large plurality of older Americans are already discontented with the Republican program, it's not at all inconceivable that the Democrats would be able to pull in 52 percent of the support of older voters, or perhaps even more, pushing them above 50 percent in the national, popular vote for the House this fall and ensuring that at least one half of Congress is under Democratic control next year.

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