Mike Pence makes up fake Thomas Jefferson quote to shill for disastrous GOP health repeal


Everything Mike Pence said this morning in defense of Graham-Cassidy was a lie, right down to his spurious quotation of a founding father.

The Graham-Cassidy health care bill Republicans are trying to ram through the Senate at the last minute is so horrible that everyone from insurance companies, to doctor and patient groups, to state public health officials, to Republican governors, to late-night comedians, have come out against it.

The bill would cut health care for roughly 32 million people and kill almost 3 million jobs by 2026.

But faced with tough questions, its supporters continue to simply lie, no matter how obvious their deceit may be.

Mike Pence is just the latest to do so, in an interview with Trump-friendly Fox and Friends on Thursday morning.

When cohost Ainsley Earhardt asked Pence if the bill weakens protections for pre-existing conditions, this was his response:

EARHARDT: You have folks like Jimmy Kimmel that are worried about the pre-existing condition thing, because this will be up to the governors to decide how the money is disbursed, who gets coverage. Every state will determine what's best for their folks. But with that, can you guarantee that these governors will make sure pre-existing conditions are covered?

PENCE: Thomas Jefferson said, 'Government that governs least governs best.' I mean, the question that people ought to ask is: Who do you think will be more responsive to the healthcare needs in your community, your governor and your state legislature, or a congressman and a president in a far-off nation's capital? This is the concept of federalism upon which our Constitution was framed. But this legislation, Graham-Cassidy, as its authors have said, contains all the same protections for pre-existing conditions as the president indicated. But at the end of the day, we have to recognize that Obamacare has failed. And as much as its defenders want to deny the facts, the American people —

KILMEADE: Including the president — President Obama yesterday. He says, 'I'm tired of this. 50 times you tried to repeal it, I always have to keep defending it.' He's — he's angry at you guys for continuing to bring it up.

Every single word of Pence's answer was almost comically false, starting with the fact that Thomas Jefferson never even said the rather self-serving quote Pence attributed to him.

According to the Jefferson Foundation, "That government is best which governs least" is a spurious quote variably attributed to Jefferson, Henry David Thoreau, and "An Old Patriot." But Pence's error is not unusual — fake or misattributed historical quotes have routinely tripped up Republicans.

Even more dangerous were Pence's lies about Graham-Cassidy's supposed merits, many of which have become boilerplate among its Senate supporters.

Pence's assurance that the bill still requires states to cover pre-existing conditions is completely false. The bill says coverage must be "adequate and affordable" but neither defines those terms nor has an enforcement mechanism. Insurers could jack up premiums, cap total benefits, and exclude critical procedures for anyone who gets sick.

Moreover, Graham-Cassidy would not really bolster "federalism" and state control as Pence and other Republicans promise. The bill cuts $4 trillion in payments to states over 20 years, and forcing states to do more with less will not give them flexibility; it will force them to make massive budget cuts they do not want or need.

And while the bill eliminates many federal restrictions on insurers, like essential health benefit requirements, it also adds new, partisan federal restrictions on how states can use the block grants. For example, states cannot subsidize any private plan that covers abortion, even if they make people pay the difference with their own money. GOP Sen. John Kennedy also wants amendments to ban states from creating single payer systems, and force states to impose work requirements on Medicaid.

In other words, this bill seems less about giving states control, and more about forcing states to do things Republicans want.

To top it all off, Pence's entire justification for the bill being necessary — that Obamacare has "failed" — is brazenly false. The uninsured rate is now at an all-time low of 8.8 percent.

It is fitting that Pence opened his statement with a fictional quote from Thomas Jefferson. Somehow, that still managed to be the most accurate thing he said.