Speaking Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Graham, R-South Carolina, took issue with a campaign trail pledge made by the Obama campaign to change how things work in Washington.
Obama and his team “ran a brilliant campaign,” Graham told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King,” but they're doing a lousy job governing the country, in my view.”
“You know, change you can believe in,” Graham said referring to a frequent theme of Obama’s underdog presidential campaign, “after this health care bill debacle, [that] has now becoming an empty slogan. And it's really been replaced by seedy Chicago politics, when you think about it, backroom deals that amount to bribes.”
Acknowledging that those were strong words, Graham backed up his assertions by pointing to a number of attributes of the health care reform bill now under consideration in the Senate. “This bill personifies the worst of Washington,” Graham said Sunday.
Referring to one of the biggest accounting scandals in recent memory, Graham said the bill was characterized by “Enron accounting techniques.”
The South Carolina Republican said that the House and Senate are not likely actually to impose cuts on the amount the Medicare program pays doctors. “So when you put that into the health care mix, this thing doesn't save money; it costs money. And that's phony,” said Graham.
The Republican senator also said that Congress is not likely actually to cut $470 billion from the Medicare program, a move that finances roughly half of the Senate bill’s costs over the first ten years.
“We will start forgiving those cuts to doctors and hospitals,” Graham told King. “So it is Enron-accounting. It is a sham.”
Graham also faulted the Senate bill for beginning to collect taxes immediately in order cover its costs but only paying out benefits during six of its first ten years after passage.
And the often soft-spoken Republican let loose on a provision in the Senate bill that involves the federal government in paying for long-term care insurance.
Graham quoted fellow Senator Kent Conrad, D-North Dakoka, who had described the new long-term care program “a Ponzi scheme of the first order,” a program “that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of.” Graham added, “So any Democratic senator who votes for this bill is a co-conspirator to one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in the history of Washington.”
And Graham took issue with a sweetheart deal Senate Democratic leaders negotiated with conservative Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Under the deal, the federal government will foot the bill in perpetuity for any additional Medicaid costs incurred by Nebraska as a result of passing the health care reform bill.
“Is it constitutional?,” Graham asked Sunday about the deal negotiated by Nelson. “I want the attorney general of South Carolina to look at this.”
Appearing earlier on State of the Union, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod defended the deal top Senate Democrats made with Nelson in order to secure the crucial 60th vote necessary to get the bill through the chamber.
“I think every senator uses whatever leverage they have to help their states. That's the way it's been. That's the way it will always be,” Axelrod said to King. “And people want their legislators to advocate for their states.”