Democratic Deal Making 

Posted: 2:46 am Monday, December 21st, 2009

By Jamie Dupree

It’s not exactly a shocker that the latest version of the Democratic health bill in the Senate has a series of deals that wrapped up the support of certain Senators, but you have to wonder if it will add to a growing backlash against health legislation.

Republicans grabbed the latest examples of deal making in the extra 383 pages added to the Senate bill on Saturday by Democrats, and accused the Dems of plain and simple vote buying.

“This process is not legislation,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) at a Sunday news conference.  “This process is corruption. And it’s corruption that’s obvious to the average American in this country.”

Coburn and other Republicans pointed to the Nebraska-only provision on Medicaid funding to states by the federal government, and a plan that gives breaks to some insurance companies based in the Cornhusker state, a plan labeled the “Cornhusker Kickback” by GOP’ers.

“Why is it that Nebraska is more important than Oklahoma or Arizona or Kentucky?  It’s not,” Coburn added.

Even the Republican Governor of Nebraska, who had asked Nelson to do something about the increased Medicaid funding burden on states in the health bill, publicly expressed his displeasure with the Nelson deal.

“Nebraskans did not ask for a special deal, only a fair deal,” said Gov. Dave Heineman.

Also drawing criticism was a provision in the Saturday amendment worth $100 million for an “academic health center” at university that is not specified, in Section 10502 on page 328.

“Such facility shall be affiliated with an academic health center at a public research university in the United States that contains a State’s sole public academic medical and dental school,” the provision reads.

It then goes into several paragraphs defining what exactly the health center should be.  Obviously, some school fits those definitions on page 330.

“Who did they buy for $100 million?” asked Coburn.

“Is it Connecticut? Is that Nebraska? What other state has bought a deal, that gets $100 million, that nobody else gets?”

Late Sunday night, we found out that the answer may well be Connecticut, as Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) acknowledged that the language is intended to steer that money to the University of Connecticut.

As for Nelson, he was mobbed by reporters after the vote who pestered him repeatedly on the flak he’s been taking since cutting his deals with Democratic leaders.

He said if the Governor of his state wants the extra Medicaid money taken out, then he’ll do that.

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