By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Congressman Doug Lamborn says the current version of health reform making its way through the Senate would require Coloradans to pay for Nebraskans’ health care.
The Republican congressman from Colorado Springs is pointing to a special deal for Nebraska included in the health care bill heading for a Senate vote this week. Republicans have seized the opportunity to bash Democrats for supporting special deals in the legislation.
The deal for Nebraska is one of several so-called “backroom deals” included in the $871 billion health care bill. The deals were included to sway wavering Democrats into signing off on the historic health reform proposal. Deals for Louisiana, Vermont and Massachusetts are also being criticized by Republicans.
But most GOP leaders have focused on Nebraska, in which a deal secured by Sen. Ben Nelson would provide millions of dollars to the state for its Medicaid program. For most states, the cost of expanding the nation’s Medicaid enrollment by 15 million over the next decade would be shared by state and federal governments. But in Nebraska, the federal government would pay for all of the new enrollees thanks to a compromise secured by Nelson.
“It contains backroom deals that amount to little more than bribery to benefit Nebraska and other states at the expense of taxpayers in Colorado and the rest of the country,” Lamborn said in a statement. “This is the type of corrupt politics that honest Americans are sick and tired of.”
Nelson, a pro-life conservative Democrat, acknowledged that he was wavering on the reform proposal over the issue of abortion. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid admitted that individual compromises with lawmakers from specific states were made in the interest of moving the legislation forward. He argues that special deals are part of the political process.
“A number of states are treated differently than other states,” he said Saturday when asked about the negotiations. “That’s what legislation’s all about: compromise.”
Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, in a speech on the Senate floor Monday, criticized lawmakers for securing special deals for their states in exchange for a “yes” vote on health reform. While Bennet says he will vote for the bill to extend coverage to the uninsured and end insurance practices such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, he maintains that he will not engage in “tired Washington rituals,” such as backroom deals.
“Now, I am being asked why I didn’t negotiate a special deal with leadership. In fact, there was a report this morning criticizing me because the National Republican Senatorial Committee was rejoicing that I did not ask for special favors,” Bennet said during remarks. “Only in Washington would someone be attacked for not negotiating a backroom deal. Just because others choose to engage in the same tired Washington rituals, doesn’t mean that I have to.”
“I am not happy about the backroom deals,” he continued. “I am not happy that the public option was held hostage by people in our own party. I do not support rewarding delay with special deals. I will let others justify their vote and their tactics.”
Bennet’s colleague and a fellow Democrat, Sen. Mark Udall, also plans on voting for the legislation. A spokeswoman for his office pointed out that the health reform legislation would already result in Colorado receiving a hefty match in federal funding for its Medicaid program.
“Sen. Udall appreciates Rep. Lamborn’s support for expanding Medicaid and would reassure him that, thanks to passage of the Senate bill, Colorado’s match in federal funding will be 94 percent,” said Udall spokeswoman Tara Trujillo.
But Lamborn says if the two senators are serious about criticizing the special deals and passing truly fair reform, then they should vote against the health reform proposal.
“This injustice will not be tolerated by the hard working families of Colorado,” he said. “Sens. Udall and Bennet should reject this bill because it gives Nebraska taxpayers privileges that Colorado taxpayers will have to pay for forever.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters