Over the past few days, Republican senators have seized on a false story manufactured by a former Republican operative at The Weekly Standard. The unfounded rumor alleged that sources in the White House had told Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) to vote for health reform, or else the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska would be closed. Using the story, Republican senators quickly accused the President of politicizing the military:
SEN. KIT BOND (R-MO): “The rumors out there, we haven’t confirmed it, but the rumor keeps coming back that he’s threatened to close a major air base in Nebraska. It is total blackmail. It’s the worst kind of Chicago politics.” [WND, 12/17/09]
SEN. BOB BENNETT (R-UT): “This would be one of the most outrageous demonstrations of presidential power I’ve ever seen.” [The Hill, 12/17/09]
LETTER FROM 20 GOP SENATORS: “We do not want to see the name of a base from our state on a BRAC list and think it has been put there to settle partisan scores.” [The Hill, 12/17/09]
Talking to reporters, Nelson blasted the phony story as “yellow journalism at its worst” that came from “inside-the-Beltway partisans who only want to derail health care reform.” But last night, in the middle of their own campaign to portray Obama as politicizing the military, Republicans performed a stunt of galling hypocrisy.
In order to obstruct health reform, Republican senators moved to politicize the nation’s national security by holding the Defense appropriations bill hostage. The Washington Post reported on this “unusual” tactic:
Senate Republicans failed early Friday in their bid to filibuster a massive Pentagon bill that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an unusual move designed to delay President Obama’s health-care legislation. On a 63 to 33 vote, Democrats cleared a key hurdle that should allow them to approve the must-pass military spending bill Saturday and return to the health-care debate. After years of criticizing Democrats for not supporting the troops, just three Republicans supported the military funding.
Explaining his opposition to military appropriations, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) said bluntly, “I don’t want healthcare.”
In their desperate bid to kill health reform, Republicans are using the military as a political football. Not only are they making up a story about a nonexistent base-closure threat, but they tried to hold up the funding of the military as part of a cynical plot to slow the health reform debate.