Campaign 2010

May 03, 2004



Bush administration officials were wrong to prevent a budget expert from giving Congress estimates of the cost of Medicare legislation, congressional researchers have concluded.

In a report made public Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said efforts to keep Richard Foster, the chief Medicare actuary, from giving Democratic lawmakers his projections of the bill’s cost - $100 billion more than the president and other officials were acknowledging - probably violated federal law.

Foster testified in March that he was prevented by then-Medicare administrator Thomas Scully from turning over information over to lawmakers. Scully, in a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee, said he had told Foster “that I, as his supervisor, would decide when he would communicate with Congress.”

Congressional researchers chided the move. “Such ‘gag orders’ have been expressly prohibited by federal law since 1912,” Jack Maskell, a CRS attorney, wrote in the report.

Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., the committee chairman, said he would be willing to issue subpoenas if laws had been broken.

A spokesman for Thomas did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Time to pay the piper.

Update:  I see that Atrios not only picked up the story but beat us to it (Dang that guy’s good), but his lone comment is this:

“Something tells me that Bill Thomas isn’t going to make good on his promise.”

I am happy to report that Atrios is far too despondent here.  The GOPers who voted against issuing subpoenas for Badger and Scully were not the least bit happy to do so, and it was a nailbiter whether they would go through with it.  The only thing they could cling to was the argument that no law was broken so subpoenas didn’t make sense, and as we see that is now utterly debunked.

The thing to realize is that this bill was always a gift to Bush.  Most GOPers have conservative constituencies that care more about the deficit than getting a sham “entitlement” expansion; it was Bush that had to worry about “swing voters.”  That’s also why the bill almost certainly wouldn’t have passed if the true figures were known.  But this has been a White House scandal from the get-go, and GOP Reps. worked hard to distance themselves from it until that subpoena vote.  We shall see, but I think this might be a lethal blow to Bush, and I don’t see any way out of it.

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