Healthcare bill tries to buy Landrieu's support

November 23, 2009 8:27:00 PM PST
When the Senate takes up the healthcare bill next week, the price of that plan will be a big part of the debate. ABC7 has learned the support of many lawmakers has come at quite a cost.

In the battle for Independents and moderate Democrats horse-trading over the healthcare bill has just begun. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, is the second highest ranking Democrat in the senate.

"I'm open if these moderate Democrats want to come forward and tell us their plan," says Durbin.

At least one moderate Democrat in the Senate did step forward. Mary Landrieu got the language that she wanted inserted into the bill.

ABC7 asked its political analyst Bruce Cain to read the passage.

To most it is nearly indecipherable, but Cain got his Ph.D. from Harvard was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and is the Washington political expert for the entire U.C. system.

"No, beats me. God knows what they're really getting at," says Cain.

In fact, Cain says it's pretty clear this passage was deliberately written to be unclear. When you parse out the language that ABC's senior congressional correspondent called incredibly complicated.

You find it gives $100 million in Medicaid subsidies to Mary Landrieu's state of Louisiana. A two-page description that could've been written with a single word -- Louisiana

"Two pages to give cover as opposed to saying Louisiana," says Cain.

Cain says it was obviously an attempt to avoid the appearance of a political payoff, but which is exactly what it was.

"And she's said she's still not sure even after this language that she's going to vote for it. That's gratitude for you," says Cain.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier sits on the House committee of oversight and government reform.

"You know they're calling this the Louisiana purchase," says Speier.

Speier says it's just another example of what she says is a systemic problem in Congress.

"It's all part of earmarking I mean they are accustomed to doing this these are deals that are cut to get support from time to time," says Speier.

And it's not just in the Senate, Speier says she's seen the same on the House side of the healthcare bill.

"Members wanted to get commitments that they would have X number of dollars coming back to their district because of their vote," says Speier.

Speier says California Congress members are among those trading their support for political pork. She wouldn't name names because they're members of her own party.

As for Mary Landrieu, she says the congressional budget office is wrong to say her state is getting $100 million in Medicaid subsidies. She insists it is way closer to $300 million.


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