OK

No, not Mitch McConnell.

The last guy: Conservative Tennessee Republican Bill Frist, who was hand-selected by Bush and Rove to take over for Trent Lott as Majority Leader when Lott got into trouble for racially insensitive remarks at a tribute to Strom Thurmond.

Frist is a thoracic surgeon, too, which makes his support even more noteworthy.

Here's the background, with more after the fold.

Former GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, MD, told hospital administrators Monday that he still "sort of likes" the healthcare reform bill that Democrats muscled through Congress earlier this year.

Yes, the same bill -- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) -- that became law without an an iota of Republican support.

[Frist] said he would give an "A" grade to the provisions in the law aimed at expanding insurance to an additional 32 million people.

Cost, however, is another matter. While most Republicans would likely slap a failing grade on the cost aspect of the law, Frist said he'd rank it a "C."

"I like the bill," Frist said during a panel discussion with former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle at the American Hospital Association's (AHA's) annual meeting. "I think it's got lots of positive stuff in it, other than the costs."

Wow - That's pretty strong support from a Republican, if slightly qualified. It's a shame that the partisan slugfest we've got going in this country right now, especially on the Right, keeps elected officials from discussing legislation based on the merits, rather than what the tea-party base will be able to bear.

Frist goes on to offer some pretty remarkable praise for the president:

The high point for Frist: The healthcare summit hosted by President Obama during which Democrats and Republicans spent a day debating reform until glaring ideological difference made it clear that using the reconciliation process was the only way the Democrats could advance their bill.

Frist lauded Obama for his "persuasive charisma" and "command of the subject."

"You have a president there who got his hands dirty, but still looked presidential," Frist said.

Bill Frist is hardly a moderate Republican. He's a tried-and-true conservative who was one of Bush's staunchest allies. And yet, he lends his support to this Democratic president - and to this eminently sensible bill.

Makes you wonder: How many Republicans currently serving in Congress will speak positively about this landmark legislation once they've retired from electoral politics? My hunch is: Quite a few.

Originally posted to itskevin on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 08:06 PM PDT.

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