'For Sale: One senator (D-Neb.) No principles, low price.'
Michael Gerson writing in the Washington Post:
But legislating, presumably, is also about giving public reasons for the expenditure of public funds. Are Cornhuskers particularly sickly and fragile? Is there a malaria outbreak in Grand Island? Ebola detected in Lincoln?
Reid didn't even attempt to offer a reason why Medicaid in Nebraska should be treated differently from, say, Medicaid across the Missouri River in Iowa. The majority leader bought a vote with someone else's money. Does this conclusion sound harsh? Listen to Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who accused the Senate leadership and the administration of "backroom deals that amount to bribes" and "seedy Chicago politics" that "personifies the worst of Washington."
This special deal for Nebraska raises an immediate question: Why doesn't every Democratic senator demand the same treatment for his or her state? Eventually, they will. After the Nelson deal was announced, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa enthused, "When you look at it, I thought well, God, good, it is going to be the impetus for all the states to stay at 100 percent (coverage by the federal government). So he might have done all of us a favor." In a single concession, Reid undermined the theory of Medicaid -- designed as a shared burden between states and the federal government -- and added to future federal deficits.
Indeed, there are indications that several senators will seek not only Medicaid funding but other goodies as well. Have you ever seen the like? They are lining up to cater to their own narrow interests using our tax money. Harry Reid may have opened a hornets nest by caving to Nelson. And if he has to satisfy several other senators to get reform passed, he will have no one but himself to blame.
And Nelson? Gerson points out the senator's dilemma:
Unless this little sweetener is stripped from the final bill by a House-Senate conference committee in January, which would leave Nelson with a choice. He could enrage his party by blocking health reform for the sake of $100 million -- making the narrowness of his interests clear to everyone. Or he could give in -- looking not only venal but also foolish.
The hogs are starting to feed...
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky