Biden misstated historic GOP support for Medicare, Social Security

Vice President Biden tried to buck up the spirits of healthcare reform backers Thursday by reminding them that Republicans have historically opposed similar sweeping overhauls.

But that actually wasn't the case for the examples Biden provided.

Biden said that Social Security, created in the 1930s, and Medicare, passed in the 1960s, lacked much initial Republican support.

Biden, in remarks about healthcare at the Brookings Institution, said:

Think about every major change in health care. They passed by a couple of votes, old buddy. They passed by a couple of votes. There weren't a whole lot of Republicans falling over themselves for Medicare. Find the number of people who want to eliminate it in the Republican Party.

There weren't a whole lot of people falling over themselves in the late '30s when -- in the mid-'30s when, you know, Social Security came along, and it only covered widows and orphans at the front end.



But the Social Security Act, passed in 1935 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, passed 372-33 in the House. Some 81 House Republicans crossed the aisle to back the bill. Just 15 Republicans opposed it. In the Senate, the legislation passed 77-6, with 16 Republicans supporting it and five Republicans voting against it.

The bill creating Medicare, a cornerstone of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, passed in 1965 with similar GOP backing. In the House, the bill passed 307-116, with 70 Republicans supporting it. The bill passed 70-24 in the Senate, with 13 of the 32 Republicans voting for it.

Earlier in his remarks, Biden himself acknowledged Thursday that healthcare policy wasn't his specialty.

"The reason I choose foreign policy, it's a lot easier than health care and a lot less complicated," he said. "And that's not a joke."

Biden was trying to express confidence that the Democratic plans will pass despite current Republican attacks.

"We're going to get something substantial," Biden said. "It's going to 
be an awful lot of screaming and hollering before we get there, but I 
believe we're going to get there."