Monday, December 22, 2003

'Medi-bribe' demands federal probe

Did top Republicans solicit a congressman's support on Medicare reform by attempting bribery and blackmail? The Justice Department says it is reviewing this matter. This is serious business, worthy of the close attention of prosecutors, journalists and citizens alike.

At 3 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, House members got 15 minutes to vote on the new $2 trillion drug entitlement. Two votes shy of passing the bill, Republicans abused House rules and let the vote run nearly three hours. This chicanery also included GOP arm twisting by House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and even Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who violated custom and trolled the House floor for aye votes.

As columnist Robert Novak reported Nov. 27, Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., said he was told on the House floor (he won't say by whom) that if he switched and backed the Medicare bill, "business interests" would provide $100,000 to his son's campaign to replace him in Congress.

This looks like bribery. Smith said as much in a newspaper column the day after the vote. "... because the leadership did not have the votes to prevail," Smith wrote, "this vote was held open for a record two-hours and 51 minutes as bribes and special deals were offered to convince members to vote yes."


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