At 1:01 a.m., the Senate cleared the first hurdle to pass its own version of the government takeover of health care, holding a vote for cloture on what’s known as the Manager’s Amendment. The vote on the last-minute amendment that held multi-million dollar deals to buy key votes from Senators passed 60-40, a straight party line vote.
What did Senators get for their votes?
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) claimed to be holding out for language in the bill that would guarantee federal funding would not be used to pay for elective abortion on demand. Nelson threw the pro-life community under the bus, agreeing to language that every major pro-life group says still allows the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supports the underlying bill but rejects this abortion language formulation: “This legislation should not move forward in its current form. It should be opposed unless and until such serious concerns have been addressed. … Despite repeated claims to the contrary, it does not comply with longstanding Hyde restrictions on federal funding of elective abortions and health plans that include them.”
Other pro-life leaders and groups agreed that the protections offered in the House-passed Stupak-Pitts Amendment barred the federal funding of abortion but the new formulation Nelson agreed to in the Senate does not do the job.
“While I appreciate the efforts of all the parties involved, especially Senator Ben Nelson, the Senate abortion language is not acceptable,” Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), the co-author of the House amendment said. “A review of the Senate language indicates a dramatic shift in federal policy that would allow the federal government to subsidize insurance policies with abortion coverage.”
NEBRASKA RIGHT TO LIFE: “Senator Nelson had a chance to ensure that the longstanding principle of the Hyde Amendment against federal funding of abortion with narrow exceptions, would be placed in the Senate healthcare legislation. He dashed any hope of that with his late-night agreement with Senators Reid, Boxer and Schumer on unacceptable language that he claimed would address pro-life concerns.”
NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE COMMITTEE: “The manager’s amendment is light years removed from the Stupak-Pitts Amendment that was approved by the House of Representatives on November 8 by a bipartisan vote of 240-194. The new abortion language solves none of the fundamental abortion-related problems with the Senate bill, and it actually creates some new abortion-related problems.”
FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: “This so-called ‘compromise’ includes the accounting gimmicks that we have seen previously proposed. The new language also does nothing to protect individual consciences. Every purchaser of insurance will be forced to pay for other people’s abortions in a more direct manner than ever before.”
But was abortion really the issue for Nelson?
The deal Hill staffers called the “Full Nelson” (not sure whether that’s a reference to the strangling wrestling hold or the full frontal exposure made famous in the film “Full Monty”), Ben Nelson got a deal that purports to pay for millions of dollars of Nebraska’s new Medicaid bills that will be imposed by the very expansion of Medicaid included in the bill he voted for. Ahem.
Yet Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) told Fox News Sunday that no future Congress would be bound to make these payments to Nebraska or any other state to cover their Medicaid payments. So the big Medicaid sellout is a shell?
On Saturday, Politico reported, “In addition to the Medicaid carve out, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) negotiated an exemption from the insurance tax for non-profit insurers based in his state. The language was written in a way that only Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company, as well as Blue Cross Blue Shield non-profit plans in Nebraska and Michigan, would qualify, according to a Democratic aide.”
And as HUMAN EVENTS reported Saturday, the insurance trade underwriter Property & Casualty posted this breaking news item on their website on Friday which informed insurance industry insiders that Nelson had been successful in having their anti-trust language barred from inclusion in the Senate bill.
If Nelson were actually concerned over federal funding of abortion, he would have insisted on the strong Stupak-Pitts language. Instead Nelson, the former state insurance commissioner and insurance company executive, appears to have sold out the pro-life community to gain high dollar items for the insurance industry.
The future certainly looks bright for Ben Nelson in the insurance industry when his Senate career is over.
More Senate Deals
Given the Senate bill drastically expands the sub-standard Medicaid programs for low-income people, the massive hidden cost in the bill is transferred to state budgets in an unfunded mandate. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) negotiated $250 million in Medicaid payments for their state.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) in her own high-profile sellout negotiated $300 million in non-guaranteed Medicaid payouts in what has been called the New Louisiana Purchase.
Months earlier, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) negotiated his own Medicare payment carve out for his home state of Nevada.
Currently, less than 50 percent of doctors will see new Medicaid patients due to severe underpayments and non-payments that can bankrupt their medical practice. The program expansion is expected to be an unmitigated disaster to state budgets that will likely cause drastic state tax increases.
In another payoff deal to a mystery senator, Reid’s Manager’s Amendment allotted $100,000,000 for an as yet to be disclosed “Health Care Facility” at a “public research university in the United States that contains a state’s sole public academic medical and dental school.”
In the Manager’s Amendment to H.R. 3590, Pg. 328:
“(a) APPROPRIATION.—There are authorized to be appropriated, and there are appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Services, $100,000,000 for fiscal year 2010, to remain available for obligation until September 30, 2011, to be used for debt service on, or direct construction or renovation of, a health care facility that provides research, inpatient tertiary care, or outpatient clinical services. Such facility shall be affiliated with an academic health center at a public research university in the United States that contains a State’s sole public academic medical and dental school.”
“This process is not legislation, this process is corruption,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-Okla.). “It’s a shame the only way we can come to a consensus in this country is to buy votes.”
There are two more cloture motions requiring 60 votes for passage this week before the simple majority vote on the final bill Christmas Eve night. Failure to reach 60 votes at any point in the process would kill the bill in the Senate.
Should the Senate pass the bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could send the bill straight to the president’s desk for signature by offering a Motion to Concur with the Senate Amendment and a simple House majority passes. The House would need to hold their far-left radical “Progressive Caucus” vote and the pro-life Stupak vote together for that simple majority vote, which could get sticky.
If the House changes one dot or tittle of the bill, the Senate would have to pass a Motion to Concur with the House. That would require 60 votes to reach cloture and end debate on the Motion to Concur.
Or Pelosi could take the House and Senate bills to conference, which would be a much longer process that would attempt to merge the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Cartoon by Brett Noel.