February 4, 2010
Via Politico: Democrats protect backroom dealsTopics: Political News and commentaries
[...] The health care bill is in trouble, but a series of narrow deals -- each designed to win over a wavering senator or key interest group -- is alive and well, despite voter anger over the parochial horse-trading that marked the rush toward passage before Christmas.
[...] The flurry of last-minute deals helped sour Americans on the entire process, and the Massachusetts Senate election altered the trajectory of reform.
But Washington being Washington, none of that has cooled the appetite of senators and House members to tailor the bill to their specific needs -- even though some Democrats worry that it could help destroy any chances of resurrecting reform, if lawmakers seem oblivious to voters' concerns.
Nelson sacrificed his agreement with Reid to have the federal government forever pick up Nebraska's share of a proposed Medicaid expansion, bowing to critics that included some in the Senate Democratic Caucus. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has singled it out, saying her members will not consider the bill unless the Nebraska deal is removed.
But there is no visible movement to erase a Medicaid deal with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) that she has said is worth $300 million, three times the amount of Nelson's agreement.
Or to strike a line item that exempts Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan from a 40 percent tax on insurers that provide expensive health plans. Or to remove a provision that sends an extra $500 million in Medicaid funding to Massachusetts and $600 million to Vermont for being leaders in providing health insurance to their residents.
"It is very clear from the process that took place in the final days of the bill that Americans are disturbed about the process," said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). "I believe it would be important for us to take out the egregious items."
Does that mean he might forfeit the money for Massachusetts?
Not at all. Kerry argued the funding was completely legitimate because Massachusetts has already used significant state resources to extend benefits beyond what the current federal Medicaid rules require.
"I don't think adjusting for Medicaid costs for states that have already done some things is inappropriate," Kerry said. "I'm not for a single-state fix. I'm for every state in the country that has taken action, to have that reflected somehow, and that should be part of the fix."
Kerry's remark highlights an axiom of Washington: Every deal is egregious except your own.
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Posted by Richard at February 4, 2010 10:37 AM
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