Landrieu Blasts McCain’s ‘Sweetheart Deal’ Amendment

Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:37pm

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) strongly rebuked Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on the Senate floor Tuesday evening, saying the former presidential nominee insulted her and her state in crafting an amendment to the health care reconciliation bill.

Landrieu’s objection was to a proposal by McCain to eliminate several provisions in the new health care reform law — which was signed into law earlier in the day — that provide special funding for several states, including Louisiana. The text of the amendment actually uses the words “sweetheart deal” to describe the “Louisiana Purchase” that provides the state with increased federal funding for Medicaid.

“This amendment is a stunt that really doesn’t deserve the time that I’m going to give to explain the portion of it that refers to Louisiana,” Landrieu said. “The reason I say it’s a stunt is because it’s actually written for television or the Internet. It’s not written for any serious debate here, and in my view, it is beneath the Senator from Arizona.”

She added: “To actually draft an amendment like this that uses the words ‘sweetheart deal’ is really an insult to the people of our country, and I would expect more from him. I’ve tried to explain this to him privately on any number of occasions. I’ve provided him with — and his staff — with every document ever requested. And I’m here to say one more time, the people of Louisiana do not deserve the derision from him or from any Member of the Republican team … because of asking for a correction in a [Medicaid] formula that would have been devastating to the state of Louisiana.”

Landrieu explained that she held three press conferences on the requested provision with Republicans in the state, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, at the beginning of the health care reform debate, and she strongly disputed McCain’s insinuation that the provision was designed to secure her vote for the health care bill.

“It was not done secretly. It was not done behind closed doors, and it was not done to buy my vote,” Landrieu said. “My vote was given to this bill because this bill deserves it.”

McCain did not respond directly to Landrieu’s speech. However, before she came to the floor, he indicated that the special provisions in the bill send the wrong message.

“They are provisions that were not allowed or provided to every other state in America. That’s what makes them a special deal,” McCain said. “That’s what makes Americans think that the way we do business around here is not in their interests. It makes Americans believe that we are cutting these deals in order to secure votes.”

McCain also preemptively pushed back against Landrieu’s argument that Louisiana needed the Medicaid funds because the state is still rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“The Senator from Louisiana comes down and forcefully and very convincingly argues that this is very needed for the state of Louisiana and Louisiana was hit by Hurricane Katrina,” McCain said before Landrieu’s speech. “I would point out the state of Mississippi was also hit and devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but we don’t have anything in here for the state of Mississippi.”

Landrieu has also argued that the reason her state needed a changed Medicaid formula is because of errors in how the state’s per capita income was calculated.

The term “sweetheart deal” is also used for provisions targeting hospitals in Hawaii, Tennessee and Connecticut; Medicare funding for several Plains states; and a narrow provision intended to allow people affected by asbestos in Libby, Mont., to join Medicare. All those items would also be eliminated if the amendment were adopted.