Dick Durbin actually dared to question the honor of St. John McCain on the Senate floor just now, leading to a volcanic explosion from the Arizona Senator.

Durbin was discussing John McCain’s amendment to commit the Senate health care bill back to the Finance Committee, to return with the elimination of all “Medicare cuts,” as he calls it. These cuts actually involve decreasing fraud, eliminating the total waste of subsidies to private insurance companies for Medicare Advantage, which costs the government more money for the same care, and reducing payments for uncompensated care (there will be les of it with more insured people). Durbin mentioned what top Democrats have mentioned all day, that McCain’s own policy in the 2008 campaign would have cut Medicare $1.3 trillion dollars over 10 years, three times the amount of reductions in this bill.

Boy, John McCain was not happy with that. He interrupted Durbin asking for a question, and when Durbin was finished, whined about the lack of comity in the Senate for not being given the courtesy of responding. He claimed that Durbin was “totally falsifying my position, both in the Presidential campaign and the position we have on this side in this amendment.”

Refuting Durbin’s claim that the Republicans have done nothing to protect patients, McCain cited his work on the patient’s bill of rights, which has been waiting for a final vote in the Senate since 2002, having not received one for four years while Republicans were in power. McCain cited no other policy.

With respect to his enormous flip-flop on Medicare, McCain said, “Yes, I said we could eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in spending,” and specifically cited Sen. Tom Coburn’s Patient Choice Act as the model for his policy. So some waste cuts, representing $1.3 trillion dollars, are right, when they are forwarded by the guy who told seniors “You are going to die soon” if health care passes. “There is no relation between what I tried to do in this campaign and what’s done in this bill,” said McCain.

McCain went on to say that his record is “very clear” on fighting for patients, and that Democrats are hypocrites because they didn’t support $23 billion in Medicare cuts in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (which passed through reconciliation). As Chris Dodd said, that was because “under that bill, children, working families lost insurance they had, the cuts occurred to proper screenings, women lost access to mammographies, cervical cancer screening was cut, families lost their benefits, there were direct cuts in them.” McCain confuses direct cuts and the provisions in this bill. “You can’t make these things up as you go along,” said Dodd. “Those of us who made warnings about that bill were 100% accurate.”

McCain closed by touting the support of wingnut welfare shops like Citizens Against Government Waste and the PhRMa-funded 60 Plus.

Always fun to watch the eruption of Mount McCain.

David Dayen

David Dayen