McCain Contradicts Himself With First GOP Health Care Amendment

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced the first Republican amendment to the Senate's version of health care reform on Monday. In doing so, he placed himself at odds with a position he championed both a decade ago and during last year's presidential campaign.

The Arizona Republican filed a motion on Monday afternoon to remove hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare that Senate negotiators had inserted as a way to help finance health care reform. McCain insisted that the cuts were "unspecified" and, as such, would "directly impact the health care of citizens in this country" and even "eventually lead to rationing of health care in this country."

It was an attack that Republicans have levied against health care reform before. And one that Democratic leadership aides in the Senate expect will continue -- if not grow louder -- in the critical weeks ahead. A vote on the amendment could occur as early as Tuesday.

But, as pointed out by several Democratic sources, just last year McCain himself was looking to cut Medicare and Medicaid as a way to finance expanded health care coverage. During the campaign, the Senator reportedly targeted roughly $1.3 trillion in cuts from the two government-administered programs over the course of 10 years -- well more than the half trillion he says Democrats are pushing.

What's more: back in 1997, McCain voted in favor of raising the eligibility age for Medicare recipients (from 65 to 67) as a way of promoting cost containment within the health care system. In 2005, meanwhile, he backed a budget reconciliation bill that reduced spending on Medicare by $6.4 billion.

All of which constitute something of a political flip. Though the Republican Party as a whole has undergone a similar conversion when it comes to Medicare -- rallying around the taxpayer-funded health care program despite decades of opposition and criticism.

To be fair, however, during the 2008 campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama whacked McCain for proposing Medicare cuts -- cuts which now comprise a major pay-component of his party's health care reform effort.

"If you count on Medicare," Obama said on the trail, making cuts "would mean fewer places to get care, and less freedom to choose your own doctors. You'll pay more for your drugs, receiver fewer services and get lower-quality care."

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