Lots of hysterical, right-wing hand-wringing this week regarding the pending passage of health care reform, and specifically lots of wild GOP media charges that Democrats bought off members of Congress. Not literally paid them money, of course, but offered politicians legislative sweeteners to secure their votes.
For anybody who's spent more than three weeks inside the Beltway, the allegations of legislative arm-twisting certainly sound naive, since that's how the D.C. game has been played for going on two centuries now. But nonetheless, conservatives insist Democrats have stooped to some kind of historic low.
But I can't help wondering what Nick Smith thinks about those claims. Because back in late 2003, when was serving as a Republican member of Congress from Michigan, Smith opposed the Bush White House's attempt to revamp Medicare when the issue came up for a vote in November. Republican leaders quickly realized that night that they didn't have the votes and started leaning on their own members [emphasis added]:
The Medicare-related bribe allegation is all the more startling -- and credible -- because it was raised by an angry Republican member who claimed his own leadership team dangled a $100,000 campaign contribution in front of him in return for his Medicare vote. When that didn't work, according to Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., a fiscal conservative and former dairy farmer, party leaders then threatened to derail Smith's son's upcoming campaign to succeed him in Congress.
Appearing on a Kalamazoo radio station Dec. 1, Smith explained, "The prestige of leadership is partially at stake if the vote doesn't succeed for the majority. And that's what happened in this case. They didn't have the votes ... They started out by offering the carrot, and they know what's important to every member, and what's important to me is my family and my kids."
Smith held firm and voted no on Medicare.
The GOP reaction at the time?
And Republicans were mounting a defense, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich telling C-SPAN on Friday that Smith was "a disgruntled retiring member" who was the victim of nothing more than the usual treatment in a close vote.
"I just think this is one of those occasional Washington mountains that's being built out of less than a molehill," Gingrich said.