October 18th, 2008
03:16 PM ET
14 years ago

Fact check: Did McCain vote 40 times against Medicare?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/10/13/campaign.wrap/art.mccain.gi.jpg caption="What is McCain's record on Medicare?"]The Statement
In a campaign speech Friday, Oct. 17, in Roanoake, Virginia, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama criticized Republican opponent Sen. John McCain's record on supporting Medicare - the federal health-insurance program for people over 65. "In fact, Senator McCain has voted against protecting Medicare 40 times," Obama said. "Forty times he's failed to stand up for Medicare."

Get the facts!

The Facts
To support this claim, the Obama campaign provided CNN with a list of the 40 votes he refers to in this speech. An analysis by CNN showed that a handful of the votes can be viewed as fairly straightforward decisions on Medicare funding.

For example, McCain supported a hotly contested bill in 2005 that cut nearly $40 billion from the federal budget over five years by cutting spending on entitlement programs, including Medicare. The measure did provide some funding for Medicare to cancel planned pay cuts to doctors, but also reduced payments
to private health plans, froze payments for home-health care and curbed the amount paid for imaging such as MRIs. The bill passed the Senate on a 50-50 vote after Vice President Cheney broke the tie and ultimately passed the House, 216-214.

But much of the legislation that Obama mentions is not so clear-cut.

Several of the votes Obama's campaign cites are "sense of the Senate" resolutions. These are efforts that express the Senate's opinion on an issue but are not legally binding. In one example from 2003, McCain voted against a resolution that would have said it is the Senate's opinion that "the 1993 tax
increase on Social Security benefits can be repealed without harming the solvency of the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund." Previously, the CNN Truth Squad has made note of "sense of the Senate" resolutions that the McCain campaign has used to attempt to attack Obama's record.

Several others were for massive budget bills that included some cuts in Medicare funding in them. And others were procedural votes - from voting against Democratic amendments to Republican-sponsored bills to voting against efforts to move bills that were up for a vote back into a committee.

The Verdict: Misleading.
While some of the votes cited by the Obama campaign can be construed as voting against protecting Medicare, others are less clear-cut. Several would have had no practical impact and some were votes on large spending bills that had Medicare as one component of them.

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