051rembrandt-anatomylesson.thumbnail.jpgHealth care professionals as an industry are huge campaign contributors. Since 1990 their PACs and lobbyists– and individuals– have showered politicians with $410,976,959. In the early 90’s, the industry was given about equal amounts to Democrats and Republicans. But, like many Americans, they were seduced by Newt Gingrich’s siren song in 1994 and the 50/50 pattern turned overwhelmingly in favor of Republicans. That last a dozen years and culminated in 2006 when Republicans reaped $33,770,168 (62%) and Democrats got $20,186,251 (37%). Several factors have made health care professionals start to seriously reassess their donations. So far in the current cycle, 54% of the contributions ($26,623,398) have gone to Democrats, the first time since 1992 that Democrats were given more than Republicans.

Perhaps you saw or heard some of the ads the powerful American Medical Association ran this past weekend threatening Republican senators who had voted to cut doctors’ fees by over 10% when they serve elderly Medicare patients. Many Republicans did– and they are angry… and scared. Yesterday’s Hill pointed out that health care professionals have been abandoning Republicans and supporting Democrats, although the Hill has an odd slant: Docs Risking Ire of GOP on Medicare.

The risk is pretty one-sided at this point and the Republicans are up the proverbial creek without a paddle. "The immediate interests of the American Medical Association (AMA) and allied groups clearly lie with the Democrats, who control Congress and have been pushing legislation to undo a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors that kicked in on July 1."

Senate Republicans have stood in their way. Though the House passed a Democratic bill to prevent the cuts by a whopping 355-59 vote, a cloture vote in the Senate failed by a single vote, with most Republicans voting against cloture.

That drew public condemnation from the AMA, backed up by a television and radio advertising campaign over the Independence Day recess. The broadcast spots called out individual Republican senators by name, including Sens. John Sununu (N.H.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Arlen Specter (Pa.), who all voted against cloture.

… When the Medicare bill failed by a single vote, though, the AMA and some of its allies let their “outrage” show and directed their invective squarely at the Republican Party.

In states like Texas, Mississippi and New Hampshire, medical societies took aim at their incumbent senators. The Texas Medical Association made headlines when it withdrew its endorsement of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in retaliation for his “no” vote. If Cornyn holds on to his seat, he’s not going to forget that his state’s doctors turned their backs on him.

From the physicians’ perspectives, they’re siding with themselves, not congressional Democrats.

Snarlin’ Arlen, for one, squealed like a stuck pig. He clearly didn’t like being singled out as the butt of an ad from such a prestigious group, one he has assiduously cultivated. Every Democrat voted for the doctors but the only Republicans to join them were the ones who are running scared in tight re-election campaigns and have suddenly decided to start voting like Democrats (perennial rubber stamps like Susan Collins, Norm Coleman, Gordon Smith, Pat Roberts, Elizabeth Dole, even Ted Stevens! Too stupid and pig-headed to even understand the jeopardy they face are nitwits like James Inhofe, Cornyn, Lindsey Graham, Miss McConnell, Sununu and Wicker.

[Cross-posted at Down With Tyranny.]

Howie Klein

Howie Klein

Howie Klein spent much of his life wandering around the world living in places like Afghanistan, Nepal, Holland and Morocco. He moved backed to America when Richard Nixon resigned and promptly helped start the first punk rock radio show in the country and then a DIY punk rock record label. His adventures in the music business ended a couple of years ago when he retired as president of Reprise Records. He began blogging almost immediately, starting Down With Tyranny. Jane taught him html while he held one of her dogs at a party. He is a raw foodist, lives in L.A., swims and hikes every day, thinks Howard Dean could be a president as great as FDR and will never be completely happy until Bush and Cheney are behind bars.