Buying the votes for the Health Care bill

It wasn’t just Ben Nelson who sold his vote for the Health Care bill. Senator after Senator did. Dana Milibank reports:

Formally, it is known as H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But this week, it has acquired an unhelpful nickname: “Cash for Cloture.”

As Senate Democrats finally complete their health-care legislation, those combing through the bill have uncovered many backroom deals that were made to buy, er, secure the 60 votes needed to "invoke cloture" — the legislative term for cutting off debate and holding a final vote. . . .

First there was the "Louisiana Purchase," $100 million in extra Medicaid money for the Bayou State, requested by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

Then came the "Cornhusker Kickback," another $100 million in extra Medicaid money, this time for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).

This was followed by word that Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) had written into the legislation $100 million meant for a medical center in his state. This one was quickly dubbed the "U Con." . . .

"I don't know if there is a senator that doesn't have something in this bill that was important to them," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reasoned when asked at a news conference Monday about the cash-for-cloture accusation. "And if they don't have something in it important to them, then it doesn't speak well of them."

Indeed, the proliferation of deals has outpaced the ability of Capitol Hill cynics to name them.

Gator Aid: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) inserted a grandfather clause that would allow Floridians to preserve their pricey Medicare Advantage program.

Handout Montana: Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) secured Medicare coverage for anybody exposed to asbestos — as long as they worked in a mine in Libby, Mont.

Iowa Pork and Omaha Prime Cuts: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) won more Medicare money for low-volume hospitals of the sort commonly found in Iowa, while Nebraska’s Nelson won a “carve out” provision that would reduce fees for Mutual of Omaha and other Nebraska insurers.

Meanwhile, Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, both North Dakota Democrats, would enjoy a provision bringing higher Medicare payments to hospitals and doctors in “frontier counties” of states such as — let’s see here — North Dakota!

Hawaii, with two Democratic senators, would get richer payments to hospitals that treat many uninsured people. Michigan, home of two other Democrats, would earn higher Medicare payments and some reduced fees for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) held out for larger Medicaid payments for his state (neighboring Massachusetts would get some, too).

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About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Doug

    That’s just ridiculous! What about Ohio? Where are our special benefits? We want more money too! Boy are my Senators going to hear about this! You send them to washington expecting them to look after our state’s interests while shafting the rest of the nation but Noooo. :)

  • Doug

    That’s just ridiculous! What about Ohio? Where are our special benefits? We want more money too! Boy are my Senators going to hear about this! You send them to washington expecting them to look after our state’s interests while shafting the rest of the nation but Noooo. :)

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Why don’t we simplify the process and but congressional votes on ebay. Who ever pays the most gets to pick yes or no.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Why don’t we simplify the process and but congressional votes on ebay. Who ever pays the most gets to pick yes or no.

  • James Hageman

    What’s amazing is not the greed. How can Baucus, one of our state senators, and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, come away with only secured Medicare for mine workers from Libby? So much for sinning boldly.

  • James Hageman

    What’s amazing is not the greed. How can Baucus, one of our state senators, and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, come away with only secured Medicare for mine workers from Libby? So much for sinning boldly.

  • DonS

    I don’t hold out much hope that Bart Stupak and the other “pro-life” Democrats in the House will prevent the House from passing the Senate bill or something out of Conference committee that both houses agree on, and which will install socialized health care at the price of unborn lives. I have seen far too many times where “principled” Democratic politicians fold under pressure, as Ben Nelson did in exchange for his thirty pieces of silver. But, perhaps the best chance for the health care bill to die will be pure jealousy. Other Senators want deals like Nelson got, and are threatening to derail final passage of a conference bill unless they get similar deals.

  • DonS

    I don’t hold out much hope that Bart Stupak and the other “pro-life” Democrats in the House will prevent the House from passing the Senate bill or something out of Conference committee that both houses agree on, and which will install socialized health care at the price of unborn lives. I have seen far too many times where “principled” Democratic politicians fold under pressure, as Ben Nelson did in exchange for his thirty pieces of silver. But, perhaps the best chance for the health care bill to die will be pure jealousy. Other Senators want deals like Nelson got, and are threatening to derail final passage of a conference bill unless they get similar deals.

  • fws

    california used to be the center of the defense industry. when republicans took over congress, it was no coincidence that the center of the defense industry moved to the deep south. california went into recession, but emerged stronger for not being as dependent on government handouts and largess.

    take home lessons:

    the winners here may not end up being as lucky as they think.

    this kind of thing is nothing new. republicans and democrats are pretty much equally culpable. it just depends on who is in power. you think people spend fortunes on campaigns so they can be low paid public servants???

  • fws

    california used to be the center of the defense industry. when republicans took over congress, it was no coincidence that the center of the defense industry moved to the deep south. california went into recession, but emerged stronger for not being as dependent on government handouts and largess.

    take home lessons:

    the winners here may not end up being as lucky as they think.

    this kind of thing is nothing new. republicans and democrats are pretty much equally culpable. it just depends on who is in power. you think people spend fortunes on campaigns so they can be low paid public servants???

  • DonS

    Frank @ 5:

    I agree with you that reliance on government handouts and largesse is a net negative. As it applies to individuals, this kind of dependence on government becomes a character flaw.

    I don’t think the “everybody does it” argument plays. This type of argument is the refuge of scoundrels, which I know you are not. We point out wrongdoing of this nature, whoever does it, because it is wrong and a cancer on society. We cannot excuse it. We also need people to know that increasing the size of government inevitably leads to this kind of corruption. What is the answer? Obviously, reduce the size of government. Devolve government welfare programs to localized government, where accountability is greater. Just say no!

    As for the California defense industry, political maneuvering was not at all the main, or even significant, reason for its demise. I know this, firsthand, as a member of the legal department in a major aerospace company in southern California in the early 90′s. The overwhelmingly major reason is that heavy manufacturing in California has become too expensive and complex to be competitive. Almost all heavy manufacturing has exited California in the past twenty years. Punishing environmental regulations, extreme NIMBY issues with neighbors, the high cost of living and real estate, and unreasonable union issues resulting in uncompetitve labor rates and work rules have caused this mass exodus. Companies locate in the south because most southern states are right-to-work states and also have relatively low levels of taxation and regulation. It is as simple as that.

  • DonS

    Frank @ 5:

    I agree with you that reliance on government handouts and largesse is a net negative. As it applies to individuals, this kind of dependence on government becomes a character flaw.

    I don’t think the “everybody does it” argument plays. This type of argument is the refuge of scoundrels, which I know you are not. We point out wrongdoing of this nature, whoever does it, because it is wrong and a cancer on society. We cannot excuse it. We also need people to know that increasing the size of government inevitably leads to this kind of corruption. What is the answer? Obviously, reduce the size of government. Devolve government welfare programs to localized government, where accountability is greater. Just say no!

    As for the California defense industry, political maneuvering was not at all the main, or even significant, reason for its demise. I know this, firsthand, as a member of the legal department in a major aerospace company in southern California in the early 90′s. The overwhelmingly major reason is that heavy manufacturing in California has become too expensive and complex to be competitive. Almost all heavy manufacturing has exited California in the past twenty years. Punishing environmental regulations, extreme NIMBY issues with neighbors, the high cost of living and real estate, and unreasonable union issues resulting in uncompetitve labor rates and work rules have caused this mass exodus. Companies locate in the south because most southern states are right-to-work states and also have relatively low levels of taxation and regulation. It is as simple as that.

  • Steve

    @fws

    “california went into recession, but emerged stronger for not being as dependent on government handouts and largess.”

    Really? The state with a budget deficit upwards of $22 billion, in danger of declaring bankruptcy, and needing to either enact crippling tax increases or slash at a budget (made nearly impossible by Cali’s massive public employees sector)? When did they emerge stronger? Perhaps we should define “stronger.”

    California is completely dependent on government handouts and largess, especially with businesses–both big and small–sneaking off to Arizona and Nevada to avoid burdensome tax rates, and the state’s population in decline. It’s why Arnold has been asking the federal government for another bailout, this one specifically tailored to his own state and only costing $9 billion. (When we start throwing around amounts in the trillions, amounts in the billions seem like chump change.)

  • Steve

    @fws

    “california went into recession, but emerged stronger for not being as dependent on government handouts and largess.”

    Really? The state with a budget deficit upwards of $22 billion, in danger of declaring bankruptcy, and needing to either enact crippling tax increases or slash at a budget (made nearly impossible by Cali’s massive public employees sector)? When did they emerge stronger? Perhaps we should define “stronger.”

    California is completely dependent on government handouts and largess, especially with businesses–both big and small–sneaking off to Arizona and Nevada to avoid burdensome tax rates, and the state’s population in decline. It’s why Arnold has been asking the federal government for another bailout, this one specifically tailored to his own state and only costing $9 billion. (When we start throwing around amounts in the trillions, amounts in the billions seem like chump change.)

  • Bruce Gee

    I am not sure we really comprehend the massive pressure on Senators and Congresspersons to bring home bacon from Washington. Every office is besieged with requests, threats, promises, wheedling. After awhile, the job description just comes down to what you can get for the folks back home. Harry Reid is incredibly cynical, but his comment that if a senator didn’t get enough, it reflects badly on him, is a pretty realistic descriptor for the Washington DC environment. I have no idea whatsoever what you do about it. Move the capital to the center of Kansas? I find it depressing, and believe it is escalating. Because it is fundamentally dishonest and immoral, it is a harbinger, I think, of the end of the republic.
    Sorry to be so cynical myself, but it looks pretty hopeless. Then again, the U.S. is just another country in time. “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality…” declared St. Peter, when the world as he knew it was radically changing before his very eyes.

  • Bruce Gee

    I am not sure we really comprehend the massive pressure on Senators and Congresspersons to bring home bacon from Washington. Every office is besieged with requests, threats, promises, wheedling. After awhile, the job description just comes down to what you can get for the folks back home. Harry Reid is incredibly cynical, but his comment that if a senator didn’t get enough, it reflects badly on him, is a pretty realistic descriptor for the Washington DC environment. I have no idea whatsoever what you do about it. Move the capital to the center of Kansas? I find it depressing, and believe it is escalating. Because it is fundamentally dishonest and immoral, it is a harbinger, I think, of the end of the republic.
    Sorry to be so cynical myself, but it looks pretty hopeless. Then again, the U.S. is just another country in time. “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality…” declared St. Peter, when the world as he knew it was radically changing before his very eyes.

  • Carl Vehse

    Michael Ramirez has a great cartoon accurately caricaturizing U.S. Senators.

    However, Ramirez may have to apologize to crackwhores and crossdressers for any perceptions of insult to their moral dignity in his cartoon comparison.

  • Carl Vehse

    Michael Ramirez has a great cartoon accurately caricaturizing U.S. Senators.

    However, Ramirez may have to apologize to crackwhores and crossdressers for any perceptions of insult to their moral dignity in his cartoon comparison.


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