In exchange for their votes to “invoke cloture” (i.e., stop debate and hold a final vote) on Obamacare, here is what some of the Democrat Senators got in return:
- Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA, asked for and got an extra $100 million in Medicaid money for her state. This has become known as “The Louisiana Purchase”.
- Nebraska’s son Sen. Ben Nelson decided that $100 million in extra Medicaid money was enough to buy off his concern about federally-funded abortion. Enter the “The Cornhusker Kickback”. Nelson then went on to negotiate a provision to reduce fees for Mutual of Omaha and other Nebraska insurers. They call this one “Omaha Prime Cuts”.
- Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-CT, wrote in $100 million for a medical center in his state. Thus, we have the “U Con”.
- Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, managed to keep his constituents from being subjected to cuts to the Medicare Advantage program that everyone else will get. Ergo, “Gator Aid”. [Note: I live in Florida, but I still think this deal doesn’t smell right.]
- Thanks to Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT, the “Handout Montana” will make sure Medicare continues to cover anyone exposed to asbestos — as long as they worked in a mine in Libby, Montana. (How selectivist!)
- The “Iowa Pork” deal secured more Medicare money for more low-volume hospitals for Sen. Tom Harkin’s home state.
- Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad of North Dakota were granted a provision for higher Medicare payments to hospitals and doctors in “frontier counties” like in, um, North Dakota! Can you say “Dakota Payoff”?
- Say ‘hello’ to “Hawaii Aloha”, a deal secured by that state’s two Democratic Senators, which will send more money to hospitals treating many uninsured people.
- The two Senators from Michigan arranged for higher Medicare payments and some reduced fees for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. We call this the “Wolverine Bonanza”.
- Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders has negotiated larger Medicaid payments for Vermont, and Massachusetts will get some, too.
Now, I’m not saying that some of these things don’t sound good in-and-of themselves. But, what we are seeing here is, in essence, Senators’ votes being bought with special privileges and exceptions for their states (or certain groups in them). Clever nicknames aside, this sort of backroom, pork-ridden wheeling-n-dealing just stinks! Yes, some Republicans are guilty of the same sort of thing on other bills. But, we’re looking at Obamacare, right now, and we haven’t seen anything (at least, in recent history) that comes close to the magnitude of cost and impact that this legislation will have.
Does this sound like these Senators are really working in OUR best interests?
*This is adapted from a Dana Milbank column in The Washington Post.