On health-care bill, Democratic senators are in states of denial
Formally, it is known as H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But this week, it has acquired an unhelpful nickname: "Cash for Cloture."
As Senate Democrats finally complete their health-care legislation, those combing through the bill have uncovered many backroom deals that were made to buy, er, secure the 60 votes needed to "invoke cloture" -- the legislative term for cutting off debate and holding a final vote.
It will take years to see how well the measure reduces costs and expands insurance coverage. But already, the bill has been a bonanza for wordsmiths.
First there was the "Louisiana Purchase," $100 million in extra Medicaid money for the Bayou State, requested by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).
Then came the "Cornhusker Kickback," another $100 million in extra Medicaid money, this time for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).
This was followed by word that Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) had written into the legislation $100 million meant for a medical center in his state. This one was quickly dubbed the "U Con."
Earlier, when GOP staff member mistakenly thought the medical center was destined for Indiana rather than Connecticut, they named it the "Bayh Off" for Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.).
For Democratic leaders, this created an appearance problem. Fortunately, they had removed from the bill the tax on cosmetic procedures (the "Botax") and replaced it with a tax on tanning (which would primarily impact House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio).
"I don't know if there is a senator that doesn't have something in this bill that was important to them," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reasoned when asked at a news conference Monday about the cash-for-cloture accusation. "And if they don't have something in it important to them, then it doesn't speak well of them."
Indeed, the proliferation of deals has outpaced the ability of Capitol Hill cynics to name them.
Gator Aid: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) inserted a grandfather clause that would allow Floridians to preserve their pricey Medicare Advantage program.
Handout Montana: Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) secured Medicare coverage for anybody exposed to asbestos -- as long as they worked in a mine in Libby, Mont.