The Nebraska senator who gave the Democrats what they wanted on health reform now doesn't want what they want to give him in return.
After waves of protest about the potential illegality of the deal in which Nebraska was allegedly promised millions of dollars in Medicaid funds, Sen. Ben Nelson, D-NE, told Democratic leadership he "reiterates" that all states should be given "the same treatment." In other words, he told his colleagues "thanks, but no thanks."
So far, there has been no response from party leaders.
But Nelson is one of the few lawmakers refusing what many describe as "pork" projects in the healthcare reform bill, in which pet projects and favors are heaped on the Senate and House members in exchange for their votes, according to David Williams, vice president of watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.
"It's fascinating because whatever Congress does—whether they are working in a conference, or whatever—deals are being made," Williams says. Too often, many of the projects slip below the mass media radar because they "don't have sex appeal. "
The "giveaways"—as Citizens Against Government Waste describes them"—include:
Under the Senate health bill compromise that sought Nelson's support, Nebraska was blessed with other presumed favors, according to critics. For instance, under the plan, Nebraska insurance company Mutual of Omaha would see less impact from a $10 billion-a-year industry-wide tax on health insurance providers under a deal worked out between the Senate Democrats and Nelson. There is no indication that Nelson has sought to rescind the Mutual of Omaha deal.
Already, favors that have become widely publicized have taken a life of their own, with their own special monikers, including the "Louisiana Purchase, " referring to Sen. Landrieu's vote and the "Cornhusker Kickback Working Group," regarding the Nebraska issue, according to Williams. He adds that other favors are woven through complicated legislation, such as Medicaid payment, and are barely noticed.