Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fact Checking Murphy's Tele-Town Hall

I listened to the Patrick Murphy (PA8) tele-town hall tonight that took place between 7 and 8:30 PM. The forum consisted of live questions, pre-selected questions that had been sent to the Intelligencer and Bucks Courier newspapers. Ray Landis represented AARP who chimed in frequently with Congressman Murphy. Overall this was an interesting event for a few reasons but there were several misrepresentations by Murphy that merit some review.

Most glaring to me, was Murphy's failure to address the question that the public option would lead to single payer or socialized medicine. One questioner asked how we could be assured employers wouldn't dump empoyees in the the public option while the second was from a doctor in Newtown who believed the public option would result in socialized medicine. Murphy addressed the first with a strange answer about rewarding the employer for doing the right thing; making sure the employees had insurance. Does that mean they would only be rewarded if they put employees in a private plan, giving them incentive to keep people off the public option? Murphy side stepped this question twice. Paul Krugman, Barney Frank and a slew of public option supporters clearly believe the best way to get single payer is through the public option. Murphy repeated several times that industry members are supportive of health care reform, which is true. They also have been clear the public option is a deal breaker.

Murphy was asked how he could support a bill that the CBO showed would cost $1 trillion over ten years and then increase the deficit thereafter. (good question btw) Murphy starts out by making the same math errors the President made in his town hall in Colorado. The projected cost is $1 Trillion over ten years but the program doesn't really begin for 5 years. The House bill Murphy would vote on starts in year 4 and is fully phased in by year 6. The $1 Trillion cost should be divided by 6 rather than 10. Hennessey also notes discrepancies in the figure derived from savings from Medicare Advantage. As mentioned above Murphy expects savings to come from industry members who are willing to contribute for the good of reform. They will walk away with a public option though, so if Murphy votes for a plan with a public option, isn't he voting against the support he is banking on to keep the costs down?

Speaking of cost cutting, Murphy repeated several times he is a member of the Blue Dog caucus and is fiscally conservative. His voting record speaks otherwise. He mentioned voting against a $15 billion expenditure. I can't find any such vote. I will not suggest it didn't happen, I just can't find it based on the minimal information Murphy provided tonight. What I have found from examining Murphy's record is that even on those rare occasions Murphy votes against his party, there is always a solid block of Democrat votes to pass these votes regardless of Murphy's oppositiion. The only exception was the war supplemental which passed with bipartisan support. Murphy is on both the Armed Services and Select Intelligence Committees, voting against the supplemental would certainly raise a fuss. He has some really laughable votes against his party too. Take his vote on H. Res. 153 for example, Murphy voted against commending USC Trojans for their victory in the Rose Bowl this year. Fiscal Conservatives everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief on that one. Minor votes like that however keep his record of voting 96% with his party rather than the more realistic assessment of 99%.

Murphy was asked about voting for the use of taxpayer funds for abortion and to provide coverage for illegal immigrants. Murphy assured there is nothing in the bill that would violate Federal law that restricts paying for abortion. Even the Annenberg Center's FactCheck begged to differ when the President made similar promises in the past. Abortion would be covered under public and private plans. As an aside, Murphy's voting on abortion should send chills down the spines of the staff at Archbishop Ryan HS. See Project Vote Smart lists Murphy's ratings from pro-choice and pro-life agencies. A non partisan research arm of Congress investigated the illegal immigrant coverage and their conclusion: "undermines the claims of the president and others that illegal immigrants would not be covered under the House version of the bill." The statement from Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, was reported by CNN.

A questioner, Mike Doyle asked about tort reform. Murphy declared that the bill by design is tort reform. Howard Dean said earlier today that it wasn't in the bill because Congress lacked the courage to take on the trial lawyer lobby. The largest donations to Murphy's vast fund raising coffers come from lawyers as well. Physicians will still need to cover themselves for malpractice and will include those costs in their services. They will practice defensive medicine because they will be on the hook for paying for that insurance.

Overall Murphy stressed three factors that must be present for him to vote on a bill. These were closing the donut hole, relief for small business and eliminating discrimination for pre-existing conditions. He was reluctant to admit he would vote for a bill that didn't include the public option. I am sure the far left will be thrilled to hear that. I never heard results of the poll that was on-going through the meeting, specifically the last question about the public option. I voted strongly opposed, I wonder why that question result was omitted. Perhaps it will be in the article in the paper. Nothing in the health care plan or the Obama budgets is sustainable. We need reform that was suggested by one caller, make it portable and available across state lines to restore competition. The most surprising thing I heard tonight was that Murphy's wife is a Republican. He might want to start asking her for advice on how to vote instead of following Pelosi's instructions.

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