In what columnist Michelle Malkin has dubbed " Cash for Cloture," Senator Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) ability to sway all 60 Democratic Senators to vote for his health care bill monstrosity wasn't an exploit of legislative prowess-but taxpayer-funded bribery. On the heels of the "Louisiana Purchase," a deal that saw Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) pocket $300 million in pork, Senator Reid stuffed billions more into the Democrats' stockings in exchange for their crucial Sunday night vote. In the leadership's edition of "Let's Make a Deal," Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebr.) was the biggest winner of all. While Americans in the other 49 states will have to pick up the tab for the bill's expansion in Medicaid, the Nebraska Democrat made sure his state got off scot-free. He traded in his pro-life scruples for a guarantee that the Cornhuskers will never pay a cent toward the government's plan. And for what? An abortion "compromise" that may actually be worse than the actual bill.
Under Senator Nelson's opt-out plan, states can refuse to offer abortion coverage-but their taxpayers will still be subsidizing the states that don't! Meanwhile, the senators from Vermont and Massachusetts watched the Nebraska deal unfold and decided to negotiate for something similar. All together, these statewide exemptions could cost a minimum of $1.2 billion! Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida all protected their Medicare programs from cuts, while other states will have to find ways to manage with the scaled-back program in the underlying legislation.
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Also, Senators Nelson and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) have made sure that certain insurance companies in their states are off the hook from a new $7 billion dollar tax. On page 328 of Senator Reid's manager's amendment, Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), the master of illicit sweetheart deals, got his kickback-a $100 million bonus for the University of Connecticut to do with whatever they want. A staunch supporter of the public option, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) was "persuaded" to drop his concerns after Senator Reid offered his state a $10 billion grant for "community health centers"-money that could easily be funneled to facilities that perform abortions. Playing hard-to-get certainly has its advantages in this new political climate.
Yesterday, some of the Democrats who didn't get the same incentives are kicking themselves. When Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) couldn't get past the reporters swarming Ben Nelson on her way to the cloture vote, she quipped, "I know I'm not as important as Senator Nelson. I didn't get the money for my state. I was too stupid." To read more about how this bill could destroy American medicine, check out this excellent op-ed from Sunday's The Wall Street Journal, " Change Nobody Believes In." We do have one quibble with the article though. Senator Nelson might think he got abortion restrictions (he didn't), but even he admits he isn't quite sure.