But since when did subsidized drug handouts become a litmus test of good government? When did they become a defining issue for the party of limited government?
The answer: in the wee, small hours last Saturday.
It was 3 a.m. when the leadership called a vote on the drug entitlement. When the voting period expired 15 minutes later, the entitlement seemed doomed. But Republican leaders kept voting open and kept twisting arms. At 5 a.m., President Bush called Republicans who still wouldn’t crawl into bed with AARP.
Feeney recounted an earlier call from the president. "I basically said it was a matter of principle, that I came to Washington not to ratify and to expand Great Society programs," Feeney told the Associated Press. "He wasn't happy to hear that."
Yet, toward dawn, the shotgun wedding was completed. The bill passed 220-215 -- with 25 Republican defectors.
Now it must be asked: Will the GOP-AARP union last?
In the cold light of day, Republicans will find this bride a porker -- who disdains tax cuts as much as she loves the swill of government largesse. Her legislative bible -- "The Policy Book: AARP Public Policies 2003" -- reads like the next Democratic National Platform. "Congress should reconsider (the 2001) tax changes," says AARP, "in order to ensure both equity and fiscal discipline."
"Some form of energy tax may be appropriate to raise revenues and promote energy conservation," says AARP.
"Congress should retain an estate tax as an important component of our tax structure," says AARP, "because it offsets imbalances in wealth and prevents large amounts of capital income from escaping tax entirely."
"State income taxes should be enacted where none exist," says the GOP’s newly betrothed.
If AARP doesn’t henpeck the GOP majority into an early grave, there will be a well-justified annulment. The party will then find its next leaders among those -- like Pence, Shadegg, Musgrave, Jones, Feeney and Toomey -- who opposed this marriage in the first place.