Politico reports some news that will undoubtedly be disturbing to conservatives who want to do away with Medicare and are always railing against “big government.” Newt Gingrich was a big part of convincing Congress to pass the Medicare prescription drug coverage plan in 2003 at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars.
Newt Gingrich played the role of political godfather in pushing the Medicare prescription drug benefit into law, returning to Capitol Hill in November 2003 to deliver a pivotal speech that turned some conservative skeptics into believers.
Three days before the clock started on what would be an excruciating and historic three-hour floor vote, Republicans huddled in a House office building committee room to hear their former speaker’s vision of a modernized Medicare plan that would offer prescription drugs for seniors while subsidizing Medicare Advantage and introducing health savings accounts aimed at giving conservatives a reason — any reason — to expand the bastion of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society…
But it was the hard-right element in the Republican Party that Gingrich focused on in his speech that day, arguing that a handful of reform-minded provisions in the bill would create an opportunity to rewrite the whole Medicare program later. Gingrich, by then an elder statesman, turned out to be the ideal cleanup hitter.
“Newt was critical to the passage of Medicare Part D,” recalls John Feehery, who was Speaker Dennis Hastert’s chief spokesman at the time. The speech “was very powerful,” Feehery said.
Those who sat in the room that day say it was classic Newt — his best and worst all in the same moment. The bill’s backers applaud him for lending his imprimatur and intellectualism to a cause they say was well worth the effort, while critics believe he walked a number of conservative true believers into heresy: the Pied Piper of Part D.
Newt’s background is filled with many such conservative heresies. Those who are looking at him to be an alternative to Mitt Romney are fooling themselves; he is Mitt Romney in all the important ways. He’s just more combative. And has more need of proving his social conservative credentials.