Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam criticized Gov. Rick Scott over expanding Medicaid, but Putnam may have a taste for big government himself.
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 2001-2011, 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 Bush on what the White House called a “fiscally irresponsible” Medicare bill and a $300 billion farm bill.
Years later, Putnam called Scott’s call to expand Medicaid as 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 President Obama’s health plan, 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 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 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 polls 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, press 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 measure barely passed in the GOP-controlled House. Years later, when Republicans lost the House, the measure was held up as a defining moment when the party lost its way.
Many conservatives haven’t forgotten, though they’ve forgiven.