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Today, September 22, is National Donut Hole Day - the day when the average Medicare recipient gets cut off from their prescription drug coverage thanks to a coverage gap left in President Bush's Medicare Part D bill. A new congressional report out yesterday shows on a state-by-state basis just how many seniors could fall into the donut hole - and it's not pretty. How did the donut hole happen, you ask? As today's Cup of Joe shows, you'll find the answer in a critical Senate vote.

On 6/24/03, the Senate had a chance to eliminate the donut hole  when legislation was brought forward to fill the coverage gap. Unfortunately, that legislation lost on a very close vote. Any senator who voted to kill this legislation (aka. who voted YEA on tabling it) has a lot to answer for today on National Donut Hole Day. And clearly so does Joe Lieberman, who skipped this close vote altogether.

Why did Lieberman skip the vote? Because as the Hartford Courant reported, he decided to fly off to California to hold fundraisers for himself. That's right, as the Courant documents, he knew these critical votes were coming, but went ahead and skipped them, putting his personal political fundraising desires over the interests of his constituents. Apparently, the $1.8 million he's taken from the health industry over the last six years wasn't enough, so he felt he had to go to California and miss 90 percent of all the votes on Medicare - including the vote to prevent 86,000 seniors in his own state from potentially falling into the donut hole.

Here's the deal: there is simply no excuse for any U.S. Senator skipping almost every vote on the most sweeping health care legislation in the last 4 decades. And it goes without saying that the "I was raising money in California for myself" excuse is unacceptable.  Similarly, there is no excuse for a senator skipping half of all U.S. Senate votes on the Iraq War - especially a senator who has aggressively championed the war. No matter what your political affiliation is, we can all agree that senators are paid $160,000 a year and that their most basic responsibilities are to do one thing and one thing only: show up to vote. It's not that hard to take $160,000 a year in taxpayer cash and fulfill such a minor requirement. That is, unless you are Joe Lieberman and you think a U.S. Senate seat is a platform for your own self-promotion, rather than a job defending the interests of your constituents.

Originally posted to davidsirota on Fri Sep 22, 2006 at 07:42 AM PDT.

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