11.30.2003

From John Fund of the Opinion Journal's Political Diary
House GOPers Brace to Fight Bush Spending

As Republican House leaders began desperately rounding up votes for President Bush's Medicare prescription drug benefit late last week, they suddenly found themselves with a lot fewer arms to twist.

Rep. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania arranged for some two dozen members who had opposed the original Medicare bill to escape the Capitol and convene late Friday night at Hunan Dynasty, a nearby Chinese restaurant. "It was the only way we could avoid being browbeaten," says one dissident.

When the vote was finally called at 3 a.m. on Saturday, the leadership was still short and had to hold the roll call open for nearly three hours. Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona and Butch Otter of Idaho were finally convinced to switch their votes and put the drug benefit over the top. Both were told that if the bill didn't pass, the Democrats were planning on immediately bringing the more liberal Senate bill to the floor for a vote.

In other words, it was a classic bullying ploy -- there is little evidence Democrats had any such plans. Still, the fact that 25 House Republicans held out against pressure from President Bush, local officials in their districts and the party's Congressional leadership is remarkable. The Hunan 25 forged a bond during the Medicare fight and plan to keep working together to rein in the Bush administration's out-of-control domestic spending habits.

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