Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Unprecedented Pork Bought Senate Votes

With the bill hanging in the balance, Nelson won a provision exempting his state from paying the usual share of costs for new Medicaid patients. The deal critics have dubbed the Cornhusker Kickback is expected to cost the federal government $100 million over 10 years.

Before a close vote last month, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) won an even larger break for her state — an estimated $300 million in extra federal spending, in a move opponents derided as the Louisiana Purchase.

Some critics branded the special deals as functionally equivalent to the kind of earmarks Obama crusaded against as a senator — and a quantum leap from eleventh-hour deals Obama’s predecessors have cut.

After Nelson and Landrieu, what will key congressional swing votes want from future White Houses?

“It’s a much bigger deal, a much larger piece of legislation than half-a-million dollars for a peanut museum in North Carolina,” said Thomas Schatz of Citizens Against Government Waste. “We’re now talking about programs worth hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. ... Sooner or later, other members are going to be saying: Why didn’t I think of this?”

“Once people see a leader willing to take these kinds of deals, people have a tendency to withhold their votes until they get a similar deal. ... If you hold out, you, too, can be Ben Nelson, perhaps,” said Diana Evans, a Trinity College political science professor who studies the greasing done to pass legislation.

The Senate will pass the bill on Christmas Eve, and from there it will go into conference to craft a single bill from the House and Senate bills.

Christmas ham, anyone?

Hat tip: Hot Air

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