- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Republicans are hoping to spoil Rep. Richard A. Gephardt's campaign swing through Iowa this week with a new radio ad charging the House Democrats' leader tried to foil Iowans' attempt to get better Medicare reimbursement rates for their hospitals.
In the ad, which will run on 15 stations across the state today through Friday, Republicans charge that Mr. Gephardt led the fight against a part of the Republicans' prescription-drug bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican, that would have boosted the amount rural hospitals are reimbursed for handling Medicare patients.
"Gephardt is visiting Iowa this week. He's here to get support for his agenda. Like helping block payments for our rural hospitals? Who's he kidding," the announcer says in the ad, which points out that Iowa's lone Democratic congressman, Rep. Leonard L. Boswell, voted for the bill.
The $320 billion, 10-year Republican plan passed the House in June, 221-208.
Mr. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, was one of the 200 Democrats and eight Republicans who opposed it, which Republicans said yesterday shows he didn't support Iowa's needs.
"You have Dick Gephardt, who is campaigning this week for a number of Democrats, and Iowans need to know and understand he has not been a friend to our state his efforts have attempted to injure our state," said Charles W. Larson Jr., chairman of the Iowa Republican Party.
But Mr. Gephardt voted for the Democrats' version of the legislation, which contained the same reimbursement language as the Republicans' bill, said Gephardt spokesman Erik Smith.
"Mr. Gephardt was unwilling to vote for the Republican prescription-drug bill because it failed America's seniors," he said. "Instead he voted for the Democratic bill, which would have increased the Medicare reimbursement rate for states like Iowa it's actually identical to the language that was in the Republican bill."
The reimbursement issue is important to many voters in Iowa, which has a large elderly population. The state also ranks 50th in the nation in reimbursements, due to a formula which bases payments in part on the cost of living.
Iowa, with its five House seats, has become one of the key battlegrounds for control of the House. Unlike most other states, Iowa did not redistrict with an eye to protecting incumbents, which means four of the state's seats could be in play in November.
Mr. Gephardt arrives today and will spend his time through Friday stumping for Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin and Mr. Boswell, who are both running for re-election. Mr. Gephardt will also campaign for Ann Hutchinson and Julianne Thomas, who are running to unseat two incumbent Republicans Mr. Nussle and Rep. Jim Leach.
Mr. Nussle is a target for Democrats after a new poll commissioned by the Hutchinson campaign shows him with only a 6-point lead, 49 percent to 43 percent. In addition, he has only a 46 percent job-approval rating among the 500 respondents in the July 30-Aug. 4 poll of likely voters.
Democrats said they are eager to engage Republicans on the issue of prescription drugs, as well as broader Medicare and Social Security issues.
"Political attacks are supposed to put your opponents on their heels this attack plays to the strengths of Congressman Gephardt and the Democrats," said Mark Daley, spokesman for the Iowa Democratic Party.
This will be an active week in Iowa politics. President Bush will be visiting the state to help campaign for Republican incumbents. Also, House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat; Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat; and Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, will be making campaign appearances.

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