Republicans loved their death panels

REPUBLICANS LOVED THEIR DEATH PANELS…. If our political discourse were in any way sane, the “death panel” nonsense would be a punch line, evidence of ridiculous people making up pathetic lies. The very phrase would be evidence of a bankrupt, comically desperate movement. It would be, to borrow a phrase, the right’s “Waterloo.”

And yet, conservatives not only take this insanity seriously, they’re actually using it as the basis to oppose health care reform. Given this, Monthly alum Amy Sullivan raises an observation that would, in theory, effectively end the conversation.

You would think that if Republicans wanted to totally mischaracterize a health care provision and demagogue it like nobody’s business, they would at least pick something that the vast majority of them hadn’t already voted for just a few years earlier. Because that’s not just shameless, it’s stupid.

Yes, that’s right. Remember the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, the one that passed with the votes of 204 GOP House members and 42 GOP Senators? Anyone want to guess what it provided funding for? Did you say counseling for end-of-life issues and care? Ding ding ding!!

Let’s go to the bill text, shall we? “The covered services are: evaluating the beneficiary’s need for pain and symptom management, including the individual’s need for hospice care; counseling the beneficiary with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising the beneficiary regarding advanced care planning.” The only difference between the 2003 provision and the infamous Section 1233 that threatens the very future and moral sanctity of the Republic is that the first applied only to terminally ill patients. Section 1233 would expand funding so that people could voluntarily receive counseling before they become terminally ill.

Chuck Grassley, who yesterday pulled the measure on end-of-life counseling from consideration, voted for the ’03 bill. John Boehner, the first GOP leader to raise the specter of “government-encouraged euthanasia,” also voted for the ’03 bill.

Greg Sargent noted that Rep. John Mica (R) of Florida voted for the 2003 bill, “and last week he denounced the current House measure for creating Medicare-funded ‘death counselors.'”

If reality had any meaning in modern politics, these “death panel” clowns would be laughed out of the building, and humiliated for life. Instead, they’re not only taken seriously, they’re getting media attention, they’re influencing GOP activists, and in Grassley’s case, they’re shaping health care reform policy.

There will be no consequences for their reckless stupidity. There never are.