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Spin Control: Protest elicits tangle over Medicaid

Sun., Aug. 5, 2012

Do Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Gov. Chris Gregoire agree on the best way to fix the nation’s health care system? Not hardly, although that may not be the impression one gets from a video circulating on YouTube.

Last week, a group of progressive activists marking the 47th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid visited McMorris Rodgers’ downtown office to challenge the Spokane Republican’s vote for the budget drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

They accused her of voting to kill the programs. She replied that she was voting to save the troubled programs. So far, this is pretty standard Republican vs. Democrat point-counterpoint.

In explaining her reasons for supporting changes, however, McMorris Rodgers invoked the name of Gregoire and the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

“I don’t think the federal government knows better than Governor Gregoire and the Legislature here in Washington state,” she told some two dozen protesters gathered in her lobby. “Your local representatives are going to make a better decision than some person in Washington, D.C. And that’s what the Ryan budget did. It said, ‘We’re going to give those decisions back to the state to prioritize.’ ”

So do Gregoire and the Legislature somehow support turning Medicaid into block grants, which the Ryan budget proposes? That would be a bit of a head-scratcher, considering Gregoire signed a 2011 letter to congressional leaders from 17 Democratic governors saying block grants for Medicaid are a terrible idea. In June, she fired back with a letter to the editor when a Wall Street Journal guest column claimed Washington state was lining up to support block grants by passing a bill in the last session.

That bill didn’t even mention block grants, she wrote.

Todd Winer, a spokesman for McMorris Rodgers, said she wasn’t suggesting that Gregoire shares her views on block grants. Rather, Winer said, they agree on a problem with Medicaid, that states need more control; they disagree on the solution.

And just to be clear, when she said local representatives make better decisions than “some person in Washington, D.C.,” she was talking about folks in the federal agencies like Health and Human Services, Winer said. Not members of Congress.

Touting tankers

Speaking of videos making the rounds, a reader had a question about a claim in a recent campaign commercial for Sen. Maria Cantwell, in which the incumbent Democrat touts her record on expanding aerospace jobs: “I also helped Boeing win the Air Force tanker contract worth billions.”

What gives? wrote a reader, who wondered if the contract even had been awarded.

It was, in 2011, after a tortuous back and forth between Boeing and Airbus. It’s for more than $30 billion, so they pulled out all the stops, including heavy lobbying by officials from the places that stood to gain from the contract. Everyone, from the Spokane business community to Gregoire to the state’s congressional delegation, Democrat and Republican, linked arms and said that the plane Boeing would use for the new tanker, a modified 767, was an aeronautical marvel and that the Airbus A330 was a flying hunk of foreign junk.

Under the axiom that success has many fathers, Cantwell was a part of that lobbying effort.

But as taxpayers and people who may someday have the KC-46A flying over Spokane, we should fervently hope that the Air Force paid no attention to the lobbying and picked the best plane for the mission. Or is that too naïve?

Ringside seat

The results of the Republican and Democratic national conventions may not be in doubt, but for political junkies they are still the equivalent of the Olympics as far as attending or participating.

So a Coeur d’Alene college student is understandably excited to be picked as an intern to the Democratic National Convention next month. Chelsea Brown, a University of Idaho grad working on her master’s at Salisbury University, got the call as part of an arrangement between the conventions and the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. She won an essay contest to get the gig.

Brown has a couple of goals: to re-establish the College Democrats club on the Maryland university’s campus and to meet President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her stint at the convention. Could be a toss-up which would be easier. But if she were talking about boosting support for Democratic candidates back in her hometown, we all know which would be the tougher task.

Spin Control also appears online with daily items, reader comments and videos at spokesman.com/spincontrol. Videos of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Sen. Maria Cantwell are posted there.


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