Angle Ad Smears Sen. Reid Using GOP "Gotcha" Amendment On Viagra For Sex Offenders

October 07, 2010 6:43 pm ET

At the start of her new ad "Big Clue," Sharron Angle tells us she personally approves the message that follows. She shouldn't have. The ad is as disgusting as it is predictable. After launching two tired attacks (on the stimulus, which actually did work, and on Reid's support for immigration reform) Angle drops the big one: Harry Reid wants to give Viagra to "convicted child molesters and sex offenders." If that seems crazy, stupid, or offensive, that's because it's all three: Republicans carefully set up these attacks during the health care debate when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) forced a vote on an amendment preventing states from providing Viagra to sex offenders. Their attempt to derail the landmark Affordable Care Act failed. This smear should too.

Sharron Angle: "Big Clue"

ANGLE: I'm Sharron Angle and I approve this message.

NARRATOR: Wanna know just how out of touch Harry Reid is? Spending $787 billion on a stimulus that failed is a start. Or, Reid voting to give illegal aliens special tax breaks and social security benefits is another big clue. But here's the kicker: Reid actually voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for Viagra for convicted child molesters and sex offenders. What else could you ever need to know about Harry Reid?

The Real Kicker: Sen. Coburn (R-OK) Offered Viagra Amendment As Ploy To Undermine Health Care Reform Without Including It In His Own Bill

As Final Senate Vote On Health Care Approached, GOP Pushed "Politically Juiced-Up Amendments...Meant To Characterize Dems As Sympathetic To Sex Offenders." According to Talking Points Memo:

As the Senate gets closer to voting on a health care reconciliation bill, the Republican strategy to derail the Democrats' plans is getting creative--and dirty. Their strategy is clear: with Democrats determined to pass a clean bill, Republicans will force them to vote down politically juiced-up amendments, and likely turn them into political ads meant to characterize Dems as sympathetic to sex offenders and fraudsters.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) got it started by filing the first two amendments: one to repeal the 'government takeover of health care,' and another to block federal funding of ACORN (the community organizing group that folded yesterday). Just behind him came Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who wants to make Democrats vote, among other things, on an amendment that "prohibit[s] the new health care exchanges from providing coverage of Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs to convicted child molesters and rapists." Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) got in on the act, authoring an amendment to strip all special deals out of the health care bill.

The goal is simple. To expedite its passage, Democrats need to keep the changes to the reconciliation bill to a minimum, and so have committed to voting down all amendments, even ones that they like. And Republicans want to turn those votes into negative campaign ads ahead of this November's election. [Talking Points Memo, 3/24/10, emphasis added, italics original]

Coburn's Own Health Care Bill Did Not Include Viagra Provision. As reported at the time: "Yesterday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) filed an amendment to the health care reconciliation bill that would ban coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs for sex offenders. While such a provision may seem uncontroversial, Coburn is sending a clear partisan message: Democrats can either vote for his amendment, which would delay and possibly derail the reconciliation bill by sending it back to the House, or get attacked for wanting to give Viagra to rapists and child molesters. Furthermore, the Viagra amendment is noticeably absent from Coburn's own health care bill, the Patients' Choice Act, which suggests that his concern about sexual offenders is disingenuous." [, 3/24/10]

Far From A Failure, The Recovery Act Helped Rescue The Economy From Depression

The Economy Shed Almost 8 Million Jobs Under Republican Policies Before The Recovery Act Was Passed.  According to economist Robert J. Shapiro:

From December 2007 to July 2009 - the last year of the Bush second term and the first six months of the Obama presidency, before his policies could affect the economy - private sector employment crashed from 115,574,000 jobs to 107,778,000 jobs. Employment continued to fall, however, for the next six months, reaching a low of 107,107,000 jobs in December of 2009. So, out of 8,467,000 private sector jobs lost in this dismal cycle, 7,796,000 of those jobs or 92 percent were lost on the Republicans' watch or under the sway of their policies. Some 671,000 additional jobs were lost as the stimulus and other moves by the administration kicked in, but 630,000 jobs then came back in the following six months.The tally, to date: Mr. Obama can be held accountable for the net loss of 41,000 jobs (671,000 - 630,000), while the Republicans should be held responsible for the net losses of 7,796,000 jobs. [, 8/10/10, emphasis added]

Based on Shapiro's research, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein created the following chart showing net job losses before and after the Recovery Act was enacted:


[Washington Post8/12/10]

CBO: The Recovery Act Created Jobs, Lowered Unemployment, And Boosted GDP.  According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, through the second quarter of 2010, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

  • Raised the level of real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent,
  • Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points,
  • Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million, and
  • Increased the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs by 2.0 million to 4.8 million compared with what those amounts would have been otherwise. [CBO, 8/24/10]

Reuters: The Recovery Act May Have "Prevented The Sluggish Economy From Contracting" Between April And June.  According to Reuters

The massive U.S. stimulus package put millions of people to work and boosted national output by hundreds of billions of dollars in the second quarter, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.

CBO's latest estimate indicates that the stimulus effort, which remains a political hot potato ahead of the November congressional elections, may have prevented the sluggish U.S. economy from contracting between April and June.

CBO said President Barack Obama's stimulus boosted real GDP in the quarter by between 1.7 percent and 4.5 percent, adding at least $200 billion in economic activity. [Reuters via ABC News, 8/24/10]

Job Statistics Trend Shows Recovery Act Is Working. Below is a graph prepared by the Speaker's office showing net private sector job gains or losses per month since December 2007.

Private Sector Employment

[Bureau of Labor Statistics via The Gavel, 8/6/10] Angle's Attacks On Reid's Immigration Record Are "False," Distort The Record

PolitiFact: "Special Tax Breaks" For "Illegal Aliens" Charge Is "False." In a fact check of a previous Angle ad that makes the same charges about "special tax breaks," the non-partisan explained that none of the four votes Angle's campaign cited support the allegation: "We'll agree that it's fair for Angle to paint Reid as something less than Draconian in his stance toward former illegal immigrants. However, we find little to support the charge that Reid voted to 'give special tax breaks to illegal aliens.' Most of the Angle camp's cited votes were actually aimed at people in the U.S. legally (even though they may formerly have been illegal), and in at least two cases, we disagree that what was being voted on represented a 'special tax break' at all. The combination of these concerns lead us to rate this claim False." [, 9/14/10, parentheses original, emphasis added]

PolitiFact: Reid Voted Against Social Security Benefits For Illegal Aliens In 2007. The non-partisan reported that "Reid also cast another vote on this issue that Angle's camp doesn't mention. On Oct. 23, 2007, during another immigration bill debate, Ensign offered a similar amendment. This time, the Senate passed it by an overwhelming 92-2 vote. Reid was one of 92 senators to support the amendment." [, 9/17/10]

  • Reid's Previous Votes Were Not To Give Current Illegal Aliens Social Security Benefits. According to

The second charge in the ad is that Reid voted "to give illegals Social Security benefits even for the time they were here illegally."

Until a change in the law in 2007, illegal immigrants had a right to receive credit in their benefits calculation for Social Security payments they had made while working illegally, typically while using an unauthorized Social Security number. They received such credit only after they had received legal working papers and a genuine Social Security number. As much as several billion dollars a year are typically collected from illegal immigrants by the Social Security system.

Reid voted twice to uphold this system...

We also see problems with the ad's explanation of what was being voted on. For one thing, the vote wouldn't have given current illegals Social Security benefits, as the ad implies. Instead, Reid's votes affected the policy for former illegal aliens who were later made legal. For another, the vote was not about giving benefits but rather on whether to change the calculation process so that former illegals could get credit for money they had paid into the system years before, when they were illegal.

We consider these descriptions misleading, and in combination with the ad's decision to ignore Reid's contrary vote, we feel the this part of the statement deserves a rating of Barely True. [, 9/17/10, emphasis added]