Santorum's 2003 Vote on Medicare Expansion May Haunt Him in Debate

Friday, 06 Jan 2012 11:04 AM

By Martin Gould

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Support for a 2003 Medicare expansion could prove to be presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s Achilles heel as he heads into Saturday night’s vital New Hampshire Republican debate.

Santorum at the time was the No. 3 man in the GOP-controlled Senate, and though he now claims he “held his nose and voted” for the bill, others say he had a major role in pushing it through, reports The Hill’s campaign blog, Ballot Box.

And with the former Pennsylvania senator riding high in the polls for the first time before a debate, his five rivals sharing the stage at St. Anselm College in Manchester are bound to be looking for any issues that could  harm him.

Already Texas Rep. Ron Paul has attacked Santorum, saying he is not as conservative as he makes out. Paul called him “very liberal” on spending matters.

The Hill says Santorum urged fellow Republicans in the Senate to vote for the Medicare expansion. At the time, he wrote that it was key to winning over independent voters, saying “the political consequence is clear if the GOP does not act.”

The party struggled to get enough votes for the bill, which was seen as crucial to President George W. Bush’s re-election hopes. It only passed the House after Republican leaders held the vote open for three hours as they lobbied skeptical members.

Santorum voted against the original bill in the Senate, but once it was merged with the House’s version he gave it enthusiastic support, saying, “This is a historic opportunity to bring Medicare more into line with 21st-century medicine. The Senate’s action today delivers on an important promise to America’s seniors — meaningful voluntary prescription drug benefits under Medicare and enhanced healthcare options.”

The bill is estimated to have cost nearly $400 billion over 10 years with no offsets, The Hill reports.

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