Monday, May 21, 2018
Politics

Attacks on Gov. Rick Scott mask Adam Putnam's own spending record

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's headline-grabbing criticism of fellow Republican Rick Scott over expanding Medicaid highlighted just how much the governor flip-flopped on government spending and entitlement programs.

But Putnam has a more extensive record of supporting expensive entitlements and big-government spending.

As a member of Congress from 2001 to 2011, Putnam voted for budget-busting legislation — including the massive Medicare prescription-drug entitlement program estimated to cost nearly $1 trillion over a decade. Putnam also stuffed the federal budget with hometown-spending and helped override vetoes by President George W. Bush on what the White House called a "fiscally irresponsible" Medicare bill and a $300 billion farm bill.

Now, years later, Putnam called Scott's call to expand Medicaid irresponsible, costly and "naive."

"Throughout my career as a public servant, I have fought for issues important to Floridians based on my belief in conservative values and smaller government," Putnam said in a written statement.

"I have a strong record of supporting economic growth and ensuring taxpayer dollars are used to support valuable public programs and services," he said, implicitly drawing a distinction between the Medicare program he voted to expand in 2003 and Scott's request to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law, which Putnam opposed in Congress in 2009.

The fallout between Scott and Putnam stoked speculation that Putnam might challenge Scott in a GOP primary next year. Putnam's office downplayed the talk.

The GOP discord — as well as the tensions between each man's rhetoric and record — is also emblematic of President Barack Obama-era Republican struggles. Many Republicans spent big under Bush then became deficit hawks under Obama. They railed against Obama policies, only to tacitly support some of them in the end.

Putnam said his opposition to Obamacare has been consistent.

Scott's hasn't.

Scott's Feb. 20 call to expand Medicaid was an abrupt about-face for a man who campaigned against Obamacare — first as a private citizen, then as a candidate for governor. With low and stagnant poll numbers, Scott's move was widely seen in Tallahassee political circles as a political move to the center.

Putnam, voicing widespread GOP concerns over Scott, struck quickly in a speech, media interviews, Web postings and even a Republican Party of Florida email.

"I think we all have an obligation to look beyond the window of our own time in public life and think about the long-term impact of these policies in Florida," Putnam told the Tampa Bay Times days after Scott's Medicaid announcement.

The criticisms — about thinking long-term and leaving politics behind — were said years ago, in 2003, by conservative leaders who practically begged Capitol Hill Republicans like Putnam not to expand Medicare under Bush for political gain.

The Medicare vote was crucial to Bush's 2004 re-election, especially in senior-heavy Florida where he often talked up all the freebies seniors would get.

Putnam on his campaign website in 2008 described the measure as a way to save money — not for taxpayers but for seniors.

Scott spoke about the human face of Medicaid: poor, working-class people like his mother, Esther, who had struggled to raise five children, including one who fell ill and had no insurance.

Scott has asked the GOP-led Legislature to sign off on it, provided the federal government picked up 100 percent of the new cost for three years, estimated right now at $6.7 billion.

After three years, the state would have to start picking up an increasing share of the program and Florida would evaluate whether or not to continue, Scott said.

"Our options are either having Floridians pay to fund this program in other states while denying health care to our citizens, or using federal funding to help some of the poorest in our state with the Medicaid program as we explore other health care reforms," Scott said.

Putnam had used a variation of a fair-share argument in describing why he opposed another Obama program, the stimulus, only to later ask the Obama administration to grant Florida a waiver to qualify for millions in education money.

Putnam also called the stimulus a "miserable failure" at the time.

But, years later as agriculture commissioner, his Office of Energy issued a report that had positive things to say about the stimulus. Scott also campaigned against the stimulus, but his first budget was lined with $370 million in stimulus money.

When it came to the federal budget, Putnam joined his other congressional colleagues in "earmarking" — directing federal spending to a hometown or pet project. From 2008 to 2010 Putnam accounted for more than $49 million in earmarks, according to the Congressional Pig Book compiled by the group Citizens Against Government Waste.

"It's difficult to run as a fiscal conservative in the present climate while embracing earmarks," said Sean Kennedy, director of research for the group.

During Putnam's time in Congress, the national debt increased overall from almost $5.8 trillion to more than $14 trillion, with nearly 60 percent of the increase occurring in the Bush years. The debt is now $16.7 trillion.

Comments
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18
Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

To: The Honorable Gov. Rick ScottDear Governor,It has come to my attention that your administration has recently made some, dare I say, innovative hires for important government positions in the months before you leave office.At the risk of sounding ...
Published: 05/14/18