WASHINGTON -- As veteran Republican lawmakers are forced to defend their support for any government program in the face of tea-party-backed primary challenges, even Medicare, the popular insurance program for the elderly and disabled, is becoming campaign fodder in the intra-party GOP war.
Utah Republican Senate candidate Dan Liljenquist has taken aim at six-term incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch for supporting the creation of a drug benefit in Medicare in 2003, a top priority of then-President George W. Bush.
On Wednesday, the Liljenquist campaign sent an email calling out the high cost of the Part D program, which the campaign noted “Senator Hatch helped push through Congress.”
Medicare Part D, the largest expansion of Medicare benefits since the entitlement was created in 1965, has long rankled some conservatives, who were outraged that Republican leaders pushed through the costly program without any plan to pay for it.
But the drug benefit has become extremely popular with seniors. And the healthcare law that President Obama signed in 2010 expands the benefit by closing a hole in the Part D coverage known as the “doughnut hole,” (although Obama’s law, unlike the original legislation, offsets the cost of the expansion with other spending cuts and new taxes).