Dems urge White House restraint on whistleblower

WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) -- Democrats are urging President Bush not to retaliate against a whistleblower who spoke out on alleged White House efforts to suppress Medicare program.

A letter sent to Bush Monday by Sens. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., asked Bush to instruct staff to avoid taking action against Richard Foster for speaking out about alleged White House efforts aimed at keeping Congress in the dark about alternative higher cost estimates for the new Medicare prescription drug program.

Bush administration officials allegedly threatened to fire Foster, the chief actuary with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, if he told congress about estimates placing the cost of the plan at $551 billion, far higher than the $395 billion figure promoted by the White House during last year's debate.

House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday the alleged pressure was at best "misleading malfeasance" on the part of the Bush administration.

"If Mr. Foster has been allowed to tell the truth by the administration, the prescription drug bill would not have passed, period," Hoyer said.