July 11, 2008
Docs abandoning the GOP

Straws in the wind.

For years doctors and many other health professionals showered contributions Republicans, who favored less government regulation of health care and helped scuttle Hillarycare, But no more, as doctors court Democrats now in control of Congress and had lately been fighting with Republicans, including Texas' two GOP senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, over Medicare payments to physicians.

In the current election cycle the American Medical Association political action committee has contributed $274,000 to Democrats and $245,450 to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

A decade ago, when the GOP controlled both houses of Congress, the AMA PAC gave $1.6 million to Republicans and $654,000 to Democrats.

The Texas Medical Association's political action committee has split its contributions this election cycle giving $13,000 each to Democrats and Republicans, including $2,500 to Cornyn. However, the PAC abruptly yanked its endorsement of Cornyn recently because of his vote before the July 4 break against a measure that would have halted a cut in Medicare payments to doctors. The Senate passed the Medicare measure Wednesday with both Cornyn and Hutchison changing their mind and voting for it.

Cornyn is apparently smarting a bit from that TMA unendorsement, because in the end, he flipflopped, along with his senior colleague.

Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison joined 67 of their Senate colleagues in approving the measure that would halt a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments.

Rick Noriega characterized it thusly:

For the second time in a month, John Cornyn has switched his vote on an issue crucial to Texas families after criticism from U.S. Senate candidate Rick Noriega. Yesterday, after outcry from the Noriega campaign and medical groups such as the American Medical Association, Cornyn switched his vote on a key Medicare bill for politically expedient reasons. Cornyn's vote to support the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 came just weeks after originally voting to block the bill and on the heels of a similar vote switch on the GI Bill. Though Cornyn's eventual vote is a welcome development, the political expediency for his final votes are all-too-typical of his time in Washington.

Unlike Cornyn, US Senate candidate Rick Noriega (D-TX) has pledged to serve as a Senator whose votes always place Texas families first. Noriega has remained consistent in his support for both the Medicare and the GI Bill and does not determine how he votes by scanning the political tea leaves. Cornyn, whose original opposition to the Medicare legislation led to the Texas Medical Association stripping their support for his candidacy, had recently told the Washington DC newspaper Roll Call that he did not plan to change his vote.

"Though we're flattered that John Cornyn adopted our position on the Medicare bill, Texas families deserve a U.S. Senator who will vote the right way because it's the right thing to do -- not because of shifting political winds," said Holly Shulman, spokeswoman for Rick Noriega for Senate. "I guess it's an election year, because after six long years in Washington, John Cornyn is finally realizing the political dangers of ignoring Texas families at the expense of his special interest friends and is trying to make amends."

Nothing like a serious challenge to one's re-election to focus the mind, is there? Hal and EoW have more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 11, 2008 to Election 2008
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