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).