Thursday, December 24, 2009

Health care bill passed by Senate. States plan fight in the courts.

As expected, the Senate passed the Reid health care bill before breakfast this Christmas Eve morning on a straight 60-39 party line vote.  Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky did not vote.  After the holiday break, the Democrat leadership of the two houses of Congress will convene to reconcile the two disparate versions of health care reform.  It is expected to be done behind closed doors under the shroud of complete secrecy we've come to expect from "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history."

After Ben Nelson of Nebraska sold his vote (and his pro-life constituents) to Harry Reid for a $100 million Medicaid subsidy for his state, many Nebraskans were outraged.  The governor of Nebraska announced today that the state doesn't want the money.  From Politico:
Nebraska’s Republican governor has a stern message for Ben Nelson, the senior Democratic senator from his state: We don’t want Washington to cover all the costs of the proposed expansion of Medicaid under health care legislation.

“The last few days have made Nebraskans so angry that now it’s a matter of principle,” Gov. David Heineman told POLITICO. “The federal government can keep that money.”  [snip]

In particular, Heineman and his Nebraska GOP colleagues, such as Sen. Mike Johanns, have taken direct aim at language Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) inserted into the bill that would require the federal government to pick up the tab for any new Nebraska beneficiaries under the proposed expansion of the Medicaid law. Even though all states have their costs paid by the federal government through 2016, Nebraska is the only state where the federal government would permanently pick up the tab — a carve-out that the Congressional Budget Office said would cost federal taxpayers $100 million.

“We don’t like that,” Johanns, also a former governor, said in an interview. “We just think that’s so un-Nebraskan. You know, we live out there on the prairie. It’s hot in the summer. It’s cold in the winter, and we’re kind of less-government sort of people. We don’t want a special deal.”

Heineman added that he’s “never seen the emotional intensity on an issue that I’m seeing right now. This violated our sense of ethics.”
As of this morning, I have counted nine states where attorneys general or governors are considering legal action against the health care bill if it becomes law.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports investigations in Georgia and seven other states:
Georgia’s Republican leadership asked the state’s attorney general Wednesday to investigate the legality of last-minute deals made in Washington to ensure Senate passage of health care reform.

In letters to Thurbert Baker, U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson and Gov. Sonny Perdue asked Georgia’s top legal authority to determine whether the vote-buying deals were unconstitutional – and financially unfair to Georgia.

The Republicans, according to Perdue’s letter, request Baker to join seven other attorneys general “to explore the availability of any legal challenges that Georgia could pursue to oppose this unconscionable scenario.”

Attorneys general in South Carolina, Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, North Dakota, Texas and Washington state -- all Republicans -- are weighing an investigation into the deal dubbed the "Nebraska compromise."
In addition to these eight, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell announced his intention to pursue legal action if Nebraska's special Medicaid deal becomes law.  The Hartford Courant reports:
In a move being considered by other states, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell called for legal action Wednesday if Nebraska receives a higher percentage of Medicaid money than the other 49 states as part of the national health care bill.

Rell wrote a letter to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to block a provision inserted into the massive federal legislation at the last minute that would fully fund Medicaid for the home state of U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat. The provision has been widely reported as part of the many inside deals struck to reach a compromise on health care.
More here and here.

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