One of the disgusting features of the Senate’s Obamacare bill is the payoffs extracted from taxpayers and directed to the states of senators wielding key votes. The payoffs culminated in the “Cornhusker Kickback” procured by Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson for Nebraska in order to offset the future costs imposed on Nebraska and other states by the Obamacare bill.
The Cornhusker Kickback is now in the sights of various states attorneys general. As Politico explains, under the terms of the deal Nelson cut with Senate leaders to secure his vote, Nebraska is exempted from having to pay for the coverage of its new Medicaid enrollees. Taxpayers pick up the tab, expected to run $100 million over the next 10 years.
With 13 Republican state attorneys general threatening to commence suit over the kickback, Nelson is now waving a white flag. Politico reports that Nelson reached out Thursday evening to South Carolina GOP Attorney General Henry McMaster, the leader of the group of 13 attorneys general and urged him to forgo any legal action. According to a copy of the memo sent by McMaster’s chief of staff to the other state attorneys general regarding the call, Nelson asked McMaster to “call off the dogs.”
According to the memo, Nelson told McMaster that the Medicaid deal had not been his idea, and that the same Medicaid exemption would be extended to other states. Politico quotes the memo: “Senator Nelson insisted that he had not asked for the Cornhusker Kickback to be placed in the U.S. Senate version of the health care bill to secure his vote. Senator Nelson told the attorney general that it was simply a ‘marker’ placed in the U.S. Senate version of the bill and assured the attorney general that it would be ‘fixed.'”
How would the kickback be fixed? The memo explains: “Senator Nelson said it would be ‘fixed’ by extending the Cornhusker Kickback (100% federal payment) on Medicaid to every state.”
This seems to be an important disclosure. For purposes of discussion, let’s call it the Cornhusker Concussive. Politico notes: “Senate Democratic leaders have made no reference to a plan to expand the Nebraska deal to the remaining 49 states — a move that would be prohibitively expensive to the federal government and raise serious questions about whether health reform would lower the expected federal deficit, as President Barack Obama claims it would.”
And not just Obama! In his Holiday Bowl ad on Wednesday night, Nelson asserted that the Senate bill would lower the deficit. It does so only hypothetically, under the Madoff accounting employed by the CBO to score the bill. Even so, if the gist of the Politico report is correct, the CBO lacked the information regarding the Cornhusker Concussive necessary to score the bill accurately
Nelson discussed the kickback provision of the bill at some length on the floor of the Senate on December 22, provoking Greta Van Susteren to ask: “What did Ben Nelson just say about his deal?” In fact, it isn’t entirely clear to me what he was saying.
Michael Gerson devoted an indignant column to the Cornhusker Kickback on December 23, Nelson contacted him the following day to offer a defense: “He insisted that the Sen. Harry Reid-crafted language in the Senate’s health-care reform bill that exempts Nebraska from paying its share of Medicaid expansion was simply a ‘marker’ – part of a legislative strategy to press for an ‘opt-out’ of Medicaid expansion for all states in the House-Senate conference.” Again, as Greta Van Susteren’s question implies, translation is necessary.
Someone has some explaining to do. As Nelson attempts to cop a plea with the attorneys general, Nelson is the only one talking. His usually loquacious partners in crime have fallen silent. Has Nelson ratted them out?
UPDATE: Tom Maguire assists with the translation.
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