GOP’s New Attack on Health Care Reform Bill: It Promotes Walking!

Despite a growing awareness among conservatives that walking and biking are causes worth backing, Republicans on Capitol Hill continue to condemn bike-ped programs as wasteful "pork". The GOP's latest potshots at sustainable transportation come during debate over a health care bill that focuses mainly on insurance and hospitals, but also includes a public health grant program aimed at encouraging exercise.

070904_mcconnell_hmed11a.hmedium.jpgSenate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) doesn't think walking has much to do with public health. Photo: MSNBC

Sen. Mike Enzi (WY), senior Republican on the health committee, slammed the legislation for seeking to "pave sidewalks, build jungle gyms" and expand bike access to help improve public health:

We need to root out the waste, fraud and abuse that is driving up health care costs -- not create a whole slew of new wasteful programs.

It's unclear whether Enzi knows that the federal government already has a program to encourage biking and walking, nor whether he's aware of their demonstrated public health benefits. But his talking point is already migrating to other Republicans, who have twisted the health care bill's proposed "community transformation" grants into a big-government bogeyman.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) picked up Enzi's baton today in a speech against the health bill:

[E]arly indications are that it will direct billions of dollars to things like having the government build sidewalks and government-subsidized farmers markets.

The idea here is to use tax dollars to encourage healthier lifestyles. But at a time when Americans are buried under medical bills and frightened about losing the coverage they have, farmers markets and sidewalks aren’t the reforms they have in mind.