If those congressmen who have received money from the health care
industry recused themselves from the debate, you could almost hear a
pin drop in chambers.
You wouldn’t have heard this: “The bill includes a government plan
the (Congressional Budget Office) says will force millions of Americans
out of their current coverage. That’s not ‘keeping what you have if you
like it.’ It will also leave millions of Americans uninsured. Elections
have consequences, this is a glaring example of that.”
That assessment of President Barack Obama’s health care plan came
from Sen. John McCain, who, according to consumerwatchdog.org, has
received nearly $320,000 from the health insurance industry. The
Republican senator from Arizona ranked first among his Senate
colleagues in a list compiled by Consumer Watchdog, a national consumer
group that monitors the ties between lawmakers and lobbyists. McCain
also received nearly as much, $312,000, according to a July 12 report,
from the pharmaceutical industry.
You wouldn’t have heard this, either: “I think I’m the luckiest guy
in the world. Here I am representing Montana in the United States
Senate. I am at the point to be able to do something really
significant, really meaningful, and it must be done.”
Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, was listed as having
received some $212,000 from the health insurance industry, and another
$229,000 from the pharmaceutical industry.
Baucus ranked second among senators in both lists.
Many of their friends in the House of Representatives would remain silent as well.
“Sadly,” wrote Rep. Eric Cantor, R-VA, on his blog, “the legislation
currently racing through the House to meet the White House’s arbitrary
August recess deadline follows us down a far more dangerous course.”
According to ConsumerWatchdog.org, Cantor, the Minority Whip, has
received $151,150 from the health insurance industry, and another
$147,600 from the pharmaceutical industry. That ranks Cantor first and
eighth, respectively. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, sits at the top of the
pharmaceutical industry’s beneficiaries, with $189,100 in
contributions. He’s followed by Rep. John Dingell, a Democrat from
Michigan, with $184,300 from the pharmaceutical sector.
The money is distributed on both sides of the aisle, and therefore
both sides of the debate. The top four representatives on the health
insurance list are Republicans; three of the top five on the
pharmaceutical industry list are Democrats. While the debate isn’t so
bipartisan, it seems the giving is.
It’s worth noting, however, that on all four lists — top senators
and representatives receiving money from both industries — Republicans
received more, nearly two to one in three of the four categories. If
you want to see for yourselves, click on www.consumerwatchdog.org.
Lawmakers will tell you their votes cannot be bought. And we’d like
to think so. Call us naive, but we want to believe them when our
leaders say they represent us, not lobbyists.
We’re held to a higher standard, though. If any of us sat on the
board of, say, the Wichita Falls Independent School District or were
elected to the Wichita Falls City Council, we’d be asked to recuse
ourselves on issues that directly affect our pocketbooks. If we’re a
developer, we wouldn’t vote on the city purchasing or selling land for
a new project. If the school district were taking bids for construction
of new gyms, we’d step out of the room.
That’s not likely to happen in Congress, however. But wouldn’t it be
nice if, when a lawmaker entered the fray, he’d preface his opinion
with, “Oh, by the way …”