FACT CHECK: Plenty to question in GOP debate

AP Photo
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

WASHINGTON (AP) -- When Michele Bachmann accused Newt Gingrich in the latest Republican debate of once supporting a cap-and-trade program to curb global warming, he huffily denied it and told her she should get her facts straight.

Actually, she did.

As recently as 2007, Gingrich "strongly supported" the idea.

Viewers did not always get the straight goods Saturday night from other presidential hopefuls, either.

Mitt Romney erred in saying Barack Obama was the only president to cut Medicare. If Rick Perry had been a betting man, he probably would have lost the $10,000 wager Romney wanted to make with him to settle competing assertions.

A look at how some of the claims from the Saturday night debate and Sunday talk show aftermath compare with the facts:

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BACHMANN: "If you look at Newt-Romney, they were for cap-and-trade."

GINGRICH: "Well, Michele, a lot of what you say just isn't true, period. I have never - I oppose cap-and-trade. I testified against it the same day that Al Gore testified for it. I helped defeat it in the Senate through American Solutions. It is simply untrue. ... You know, I think it's important for you, and this is a fair game and everybody gets to pick fights. It's important that you be accurate when you say these things. Those are not true."

THE FACTS: Bachmann's suggestion that Gingrich and Romney are in lockstep was oversimplified. But she was right that Gingrich once backed the idea of capping carbon emissions and letting polluters trade emission allowances.

Asked in a 2007 PBS "Frontline" interview about President George W. Bush's endorsement of mandatory carbon caps in his 2000 campaign, Gingrich said: "I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there's a package there that's very, very good. And frankly, it's something I would strongly support."

To be sure, Gingrich opposed a Democratic version of cap-and-trade when it was adopted by the House. It died in the Senate. Many Republicans considered it a market-distorting cap-and-tax plan.

Although most candidates disavow the idea now, cap-and-trade once enjoyed substantial Republican support because it sought to use market mechanisms, not the heavy hand of government, to control pollution. Congress in 1990 passed a law with overwhelming bipartisan support that set up a trading system for sulfur dioxide, the main culprit behind acid rain.

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ROMNEY: "Let's not forget, only one president has ever cut Medicare for seniors in this country and it's Barack Obama. We're going to remind him of that time and time again."

THE FACTS: Obama is at least the third president to sign cuts in Medicare that were passed by Congress.

The 1990 budget law signed by Republican President George H.W. Bush raised premiums paid by Medicare beneficiaries and cut payments to hospitals, doctors and other providers.

The 1997 balanced budget law signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton scaled back Medicare payments to hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes and other providers, as well as raising monthly premiums paid by older people. It reduced projected payment rates for doctors, putting in place automatic cuts that Congress routinely has waived ever since.

The law signed by Obama strengthens traditional Medicare by improving preventive care and increasing payments to primary care doctors and nurses serving as medical coordinators, but reduces subsidies to private insurance plans that have become a popular alternative to Medicare.

(more of the article)

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