Despite her sudden intense interest in the debate raging in Washington, Hutchison doesn't have a long record to point to on health care. She was active on the biggest health care debates of her time in the Senate, but no signature legislation on the topic bears her name. She wins credit from some for behind-the-scenes battling for Texas interests, but that can be hard for voters to appreciate.
Critics accuse her of grandstanding. And her role carries some risk. As of last summer, she had promised to quit the Senate by now to focus on unseating Gov. Rick Perry next year. So now that she has stayed in Washington expressly to battle the Democratic plan, she might come off as ineffectual if it passes.
"I certainly couldn't walk out on health care, because it affects so many Texans," she told a San Antonio radio station this month when she put her resignation on hold. "I just had to make the decision – very tough one for me – to stay and fight health care as long as I have breath."
Hutchison is gambling that either way, GOP voters in the March gubernatorial primary will reward her for resisting what they view as a government takeover of health care. To that end, Hutchison has made a flurry of floor speeches in recent weeks, a half-dozen impassioned arguments to slow down and think again.
The exposure – she's turned up often on cable networks, calling the bill a "monstrosity" – easily eclipses anything she's done previously on health care. But advocacy isn't the same as achievement.
The unceremonious defeat of her motion to send the bill back to committee drew scoffs from Perry, whose aides dusted off her recent boasts that she would "call in every favor, twist every arm" and "lead the fight."
"The senator has had zero influence in the health care debate," said Perry spokesman Mark Miner. "The only thing she's fighting to do is get in front of the cameras."
For me it is not whether she has passed a bunch of bills or been a "leader" on anything.... sometimes doing nothing is better than "doing something." Instead I care about whether she has supported the incremental growth of government health care or if she has done anything to stem that growth and support freedom based alternative measures instead. More from that article...
But for some conservatives, some of her positions show she's in the big-government camp herself. They cite her support for the state Children's Health Insurance Program and for a Medicare prescription drug benefit.
CHIP, which covers children in families with income too high to qualify for Medicaid, was created in 1997 at an initial cost of $24 billion – a pittance compared with the $400 billion initial price tag attached to the Medicare expansion in 2003.
Kay has often broken with the GOP to support bigger government health care programs... while I can't blame her for voting with Bush on that Medicare prescription drug bill since that was a major initiative of Bush's first term and he actually campaigned on it in 2000, but she has voted probably dozens of times... someone check my numbers... to grow CHIP from a poverty safety net for kids into a "public option" style middle class entitlement that is crowding out private insurance for kids for people making good money...
Kay probably lost my vote when she criticized Rick for rejecting federal unemployment dollars with mandates attached. That was never such a major public issue firing up the grassroots. This health care thing is. She is probably losing a lot of votes this weekend due to her misguided health care vote. What was she thinking? Who was with her there in Washington telling her to do that? I really want to know, because they should never work in GOP politics ever again after this is said and done. I know I want to avoid working with the people advising her on that decision... they should go work for Arlen Specter or someone like that, not a Texas Republican senator.
That is how poor this decision was... it was not THE nail in her political coffin, but it was A nail, and a big one at that. Whatever grief she is getting right now from the grassroots she 100% brought on her self.