Remember when there used to be people called "moderate Republicans"? You know, those scions of prominent families who learned all about fair play in prep school and whose mothers taught them to be charitable toward the servants? They were certainly friendly to big business -- after all they had to be able to show their faces at the country club -- but they liked national parks and clean rivers; didn't mind taking a little bit off the top of the dividend stream for taxes; liked spending aircraft carriers full of thousand dollar bills on ships, planes and tanks but were fairly averse to actually using them; hated budget deficits, because they wanted their bonds to hold their value; and were willing to throw a few dimes out the window of the limo to the wretched refuse on the sidewalk.
It seems they may be back. From The Oregonian (brief, painless registration required):
Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., said Wednesday that he will vote against a massive budget bill being considered in Congress if it includes cuts in the Medicaid and food stamp programs that he and a handful of other Republican senators strongly oppose.
Smith's unequivocal statement could be critical in shaping the final version of the 2006 Budget Reconciliation Act. The continued opposition by him and the other GOP senators would all but doom any bill containing the Medicaid and food stamp cuts in the Senate.
Smith added that he thinks the six Republican senators who have joined him in opposing the cuts "will hold with me."
Under growing pressure to reduce the federal budget deficit, House Republican leaders passed a version of the budget legislation that would slash about $50 billion over five years. The House bill included steep cuts in Medicaid -- the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor -- and the food stamp program.
In the Senate, Smith was instrumental in crafting a measure that would cut the budget by about $36 billion over five years. It makes relatively mild cuts in Medicaid that would not directly affect beneficiaries and does not reduce food stamp spending.
That version of the budget bill passed the Senate by only five votes, meaning Smith and his six GOP allies could hold the balance of power in deciding the outcome of the budget battle.
"The central strand in America's safety net is Medicaid, and it must not be weakened," he said. "Food stamps, like health care, ought to be a part of what America holds out to the disadvantaged in our society."
About 220,000 Oregon households receive food stamps. Under the House bill, an estimated 15,000 Oregon households would be cut off.
Several Medicaid and food stamp beneficiaries attended Wednesday's news conference and thanked Smith for his stand.
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a health care consumers' advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., said Smith played a "heroic role" in the Medicaid fight.
"Senator Smith," Pollack said, "has been the --and I underscore the word the -- most important leader in protecting Medicaid in the United States Congress."
Now, he still represents a vote for Republican control of the Senate, and I don't see him out there wanting to investigate the phony case for war, torture, war crimes, administration incompetence and corruption, or any of that other really nasty stuff that a Democratically controlled chamber would blow the lid off. He's all for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, of course, but he's also for stem cell research and he emphasizes nicer stuff like USAID over kicking butt with the army in his foreign policy rhetoric. And BTW, in good old Republican conservationist tradition, Smith opposes oil drilling in ANWR. So now you know we're non-partisan here, without fear or favor.