Viagra, Aliens And Wounded Veterans: Three False Attacks On Sen. Boxer

October 25, 2010 11:31 am ET

Taxpayer Network gets creative in two ads attacking incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), but doesn't manage to come up with any fair points on which to disparage her. One of the ads falsely claims that Boxer "voted to include illegals in the new health care law," but the law explicitly excludes undocumented immigrants. Taxpayer Network also digs up three obscure votes to claim that Boxer voted to provide Viagra for convicted child molesters and that she voted to help "illegal aliens" over veterans. In fact, the ads wildly distort the impact and intent of all three votes.

Taxpayer Network: "Work"

Barbara Boxer is supposed to represent us. But does she? Would you deny our veterans ongoing health care when they're wounded defending us? Boxer did. Or use our tax dollars to give illegal aliens Social Security and tax breaks? Boxer did. And would you give convicted child molesters Viagra with our tax dollars? Incredibly, that's exactly what Boxer did. Call Barbara Boxer. Tell her to vote for veterans' rights, not for illegal aliens.

Taxpayer Network: "Record"

[Boxer:] "that I'm very proud of my record for veterans." [Narrator:] Really, Senator Boxer? Let's look at your record. You voted to deny our veterans ongoing health care for wounds they received defending us, yet voted to give taxpayer-financed social security and college tuition to illegal aliens. You even voted to include illegals in the new health care law. Call Barbara Boxer. Tell her to vote for veterans' rights, not for illegal aliens.

Health Care Amendment Helped Republicans, Not Veterans

The ad's claim that Boxer "den[ied] our veterans ongoing health care when they're wounded defending us" cites Senate Amendment 3644, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch during a period in which Republicans introduced a flurry of "politically juiced-up" amendments designed to impede the progress of the health care reform bill and to provide fodder for negative campaign advertisements.

As Final Senate Vote On Health Care Approached, GOP Pushed Amendments Designed To Tie Up Health Care Legislation And Furnish Negative Campaign Ads Against Democrats. From 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.


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]

Voting To Table Senate Amendment 3644 Didn't "Deny Our Veterans" Access To Ongoing Health Care. From the Lincoln Tribune: "The health care overhaul passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier this year contains a new tax on medical devices such as prosthetic limbs, pacemakers, and wheelchairs. This tax, which its proponents claim will raise $20 billion over the next ten years, contains no exemption for the nation's 22 million veterans. [...] On March 24 2010, Senate Democrats rejected an amendment offered by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to the healthcare bill. This amendment (SA 3644) would have prevented the medical device tax from hitting veterans covered by the Veterans Healthcare Program or TRICARE for Life." [Lincoln Tribune, 7/4/10]

"Viagra For Sex Offenders" A Political Ploy From Sen. Coburn To Undermine Health Care Reform — But It's Not In The Law

"Viagra For Sex Offenders" Part Of A Rash Of "Politically Juiced-Up Amendments" "Meant To Characterize Dems As Sympathetic To Sex Offenders." According to Talking Points Memo:

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.

[Talking Points Memo, 3/24/10, emphasis added, italics original] "There's Nothing In The Law That Supports, Requires Or Even Mentions" Viagra For Sex Offenders. Fact-checking an ad from Sharron Angle's campaign that attacks Harry Reid with the same claim, writes:

The amendment, proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, was not intended to counter some provision of the law that provided these drugs to convicted sex offenders. There's nothing in the legislation that supports, requires or even mentions such prescriptions. It also is true that the Congressional Research Service said that nothing in the health care law would mandate that health plans "limit the type of benefits that can be offered based on the plan beneficiary's prior criminal convictions." The new law will be just like the old: Convicts who are not in prison, including those convicted of sex offenses, will be able to buy any health plan they choose, some of which may cover drugs that treat erectile dysfunction. And former prisoners will be able to buy plans from the state-administered health exchanges with tax subsidies, if they qualify.

[, 10/8/10, emphasis added]

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]

Boxer's Vote Did Not Give Undocumented Immigrants Social Security Benefits

For the claim that Boxer "use[d] our tax dollars to give illegal aliens Social Security and tax breaks," the ad cites Senate Amendment 3985, introduced by Sen. John Ensign in 2006. Boxer voted against the amendment, which failed but would have ended the ability of undocumented workers who later obtained lawful status to benefit from money they paid into Social Security while working illegally.

Amendment Would Have Prevented Newly Legal Workers From Benefiting From Money They Paid Into Social Security While Undocumented. From Politifact's fact-check of a similar claim made in an ad against Sen. Harry Reid:

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.

During a Senate debate over immigration reform in 2006, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., offered an amendment to prevent anyone from earning credit for Social Security payments made using an unauthorized Social Security number -- a provision that would mostly if not entirely affect illegal aliens. On May 18, 2006, the Senate voted on a motion to table -- that is, to stop consideration of -- the Ensign amendment. By a bare one-vote majority, the chamber voted to table the amendment. Reid's was one of the 50 votes in favor of tabling.

[, 9/17/10]

Boxer's Vote Did Not Give Current Undocumented Immigrants Social Security Benefits. From Politifact's fact-check of a similar claim made about Sen. Harry Reid: "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." [, 9/17/10; emphasis added]

Boxer Voted In Favor Of A Similar Amendment Sen. Ensign Introduced Later. From Politifact's fact-check of an ad making similar allegations against Harry Reid: "First, 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]

  • Boxer Voted To Support Similar Amendment. According to Senate voting records, Senator Boxer voted "Yea" on an October 23, 2007, amendment "to prohibit the use of funds to process claims based on illegal work for purposes of receiving Social Security benefits." [110th Congress, Vote # 388, 10/23/07]

Health Care Reform Explicitly Excludes Undocumented Immigrants

Washington Post: Affordable Care Act "Goes Out Of Its Way To Exclude" Unauthorized Immigrants. From the Washington Post:

President Obama's health law has brought the Democrats closer than ever to achieving their dream of universal coverage, with their plan predicted to insure some 95 percent of Americans who are legally in the country. But even if everything goes according to plan, there will still be
some who will face major barriers to accessing coverage -- including groups that the Affordable Care Act goes out of its way to exclude.

As the AP points out today, there are about 7 million unauthorized immigrants who will be prohibited from buying insurance on the newly created exchanges, even if they pay out of their own pocket. And the exclusion of this group from health reform -- along with other restrictions that affect fully legal immigrants as well -- could create a massive coverage gap that puts a strain on the rest of the health system as well.

[Washington Post, 5/5/10]

President Obama: Health Care Reform Should Not Cover "Illegal Immigrants." As reported by CBS News, "Asked by CBS News' Katie Couric in an exclusive interview whether illegal immigrants should be covered under a new health care plan, President Obama responded simply, 'no.'" [, 7/21/09; emphasis added]