- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2004

CLEVELAND — White House spokesman Scott McClellan yesterday called on Senate Democrats to stop blocking the nomination of his brother, Mark McClellan, to run the Medicare program.

“He is a highly qualified nominee with a tremendous amount of expertise and experience in this area,” the presidential spokesman said aboard Air Force One in response to questions from The Washington Times.

Democrats used a procedural move to block Mark McClellan because he opposes the importation of low-cost prescription drugs from Canada.

“He stubbornly refuses to allow people to purchase drugs in Canada while steadily the prices are going up,” said Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, on Tuesday.

Yesterday, Scott McClellan said the blocking of his brother’s nomination is complicating the administration’s quest to implement the president’s recent overhaul of Medicare, which includes a new prescription-drug entitlement.

“It certainly doesn’t help us move forward as quickly as possible to implement these improvements for our seniors,” the spokesman said.

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee voted 18-2 to send Mark McClellan’s nomination to the Senate floor. But Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, put a hold on the nomination until he gets more answers on Canadian drugs from the nominee, who currently serves as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

The nominee’s brother urged Mr. Dorgan and other Senate Democrats to reconsider.

“All members should keep in mind that this is about America’s seniors and providing them the health care that they need,” the president’s spokesman said. “Get this nominee in place so that we can work to implement these improvements.”

The White House counteroffensive came on a day when Mr. Bush continued to hammer Mr. Kerry for favoring “protectionism” over free trade. Without naming the Democrat by name, Mr. Bush also criticized his plan to raise taxes during a speech on the lingering challenge of the recovering economy.

“Some politicians in Washington see this new challenge, and yet they want to respond in old ways,” he told hundreds of businesswomen at the Women’s Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century forum in downtown Cleveland.

“Their agenda is to increase federal taxes, to build a wall around this country and to isolate America from the rest of the world,” he said. “They never get around to explaining how higher taxes would help create a single job in America — except maybe at the IRS.”

To bolster his point, Mr. Bush had his campaign release quotes from various officials, including Mr. Kerry himself, showing how taxes would be raised if the Democrat wins.

For example, Mr. Kerry said in New Hampshire in December: “In my first 100 days in the White House, I will roll back George Bush’s tax cut.”

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt excoriated the Democrat.

“John Kerry has voted for higher taxes 350 times and his numbers for new spending don’t add up,” he said. “His campaign-trail promises mean that he is going to raise taxes by at least $900 billion.

“It is a tax increase on every American,” he added. “John Kerry’s rhetoric that he is only going to raise taxes on the rich is not credible, is not believable, and it doesn’t add up.”

As for free trade, Scott McClellan pounded Mr. Kerry for “promoting economic isolationism.”

“That’s the wrong approach for our economy at this time. It’s an approach based on pessimism. It’s a tired, old approach that is based on failed economic policies,” he said.

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