Isakson irked

Senator cited by White House for debunking Palin's "death panel" claims retreats


Thomas Schaller
August 12, 2009 7:55PM (UTC)

Oh, how a small, even genuine and thoughtful comment can quickly explode into a big controversy.

As most of you already know, on Monday afternoon, Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein pubbed an interview with Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia in which the senator, without any specific prompting by Klein about Sarah Palin, basically issued an intra-party smackdown of Palin's absurd "death panel" comments.

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The item got a lot of attention. The White House quickly noticed it and, as I mentioned yesterday, both W.H. press secretary Robert Gibbs, aboard Air Force One on the way to the president's New Hampshire town hall, and President Obama himself during that town hall, alluded to Isakson's comments.

As Klein noticed last night, the White House comments moved Isakson's bacon out of the fry pan and into the fire. And the senator is none too happy about it, issuing a press release that reads in part:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today denounced comments made by President Obama and his spokesman regarding Isakson’s alleged connection to language contained in the House health care bill on “end-of-life counseling.”

Isakson vehemently opposes the House and Senate health care bills and he played no role in drafting language added to the House bill by House Democrats calling for the government to incentivize doctors by offering them money to conduct “end-of-life counseling” with Medicare patients every five years. Isakson also strongly opposed the House bill language calling for doctors to follow a government-mandated list of topics to discuss with patients during the counseling sessions. . .

“This is what happens when the President and members of Congress don’t read the bills. The White House and others are merely attempting to deflect attention from the intense negativity caused by their unpopular policies. I never consulted with the White House in this process and had no role whatsoever in the House Democrats’ bill. I categorically oppose the House bill and find it incredulous that the White House and others would use my amendment as a scapegoat for their misguided policies,” Isakson said. “My Senate amendment simply puts health care choices back in the hands of the individual and allows them to consider if they so choose a living will or durable power of attorney. The House provision is merely another ill-advised attempt at more government mandates, more government intrusion, and more government involvement in what should be an individual choice.” (emphasis in original)

Sounds like somebody is taking some heat from his GOP colleagues.


Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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