Nelson Blames Republican Governor for Health Care Compromise

Posted December 20, 2009 at 11:47am

The Democratic linchpin in a delicate Senate health care compromise said Sunday that special goodies for his constituents came at the behest of the state’s Republican governor.Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union with John King,— Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said he “didn’t ask for a special favor here … didn’t ask for a carve-out.—“He’s said publicly he’s having trouble with the budget and this will add to the budget woes,— Nelson said of Cornhusker State Republican Gov. Dave Heineman. “I said, look, we have to have this fixed.—Nelson’s comments Sunday morning came as Republicans stepped up their criticisms of the “Cornhusker kickback— included in the Senate health care bill, which is expected to pass the Senate by Friday. The proposal would force the federal government to pay the entire insurance bill for poor Nebraskans. Critics decry the subsidy as a blatant political bribe intended to secure Nelson’s decisive 60th health care vote Saturday.On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) expressed doubts that Nelson’s deal is even legal.“I’ve got a 30 percent African-American population, a lot of low-income African-Americans on Medicaid,— Graham said earlier Sunday on the CNN show. “There are a lot of people, Democrats and Republicans, who are upset by this. Is it constitutional? I want the attorney general of South Carolina to look at this.—Nelson also suggested that he ultimately decided to support the health care bill, in part, to prevent Democratic leaders from using the budget reconciliation process — which only requires 51 votes for passage — to push a health care bill past the finish line. “It seems to me more likely, with the harsh feelings about this issue, it would have been more likely that they would have then gone through reconciliation,— Nelson said. “People have to understand, 60 votes may be 60 votes to go through the ordinary process, but a simple majority could be required to go through a process called reconciliation.—“Then you wouldn’t have gotten [abortion restrictions] … you wouldn’t have gotten what is in the bill right now,— he added.With both chambers now expected to hash out their differences after the new year, Nelson said he would not support a blended bill that includes a “public plan— or House-proposed tax on wealthy Americans.“I don’t want to throw down the gauntlet here or make a bright line or anything like that,— Nelson said. “But you always know material changes, something that would change the paradigm from where it is.—