GOP attorneys general demand a change in Senate health-care bill

By Meg Kinnard
Friday, January 1, 2010

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Republican attorneys general in 13 states are threatening legal action over a provision in the federal health-care reform bill that would shield Nebraska from the costs of expanding Medicaid programs -- language that was inserted to win the support of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), the attorneys general wrote that they consider the provision "constitutionally flawed" and demanded that it be stricken from the final bill.

On Christmas Eve, in a 60 to 39 vote, Senate Democrats overcame a Republican filibuster against President Obama's call to remake the nation's health-care system.

Nelson, the last holdout in the Democratic caucus, agreed to support the legislation after it was amended to exempt Nebraska from paying its share of the cost of expanding Medicaid programs. Under the provision, the federal government would permanently pick up the tab for the expansion, at an estimated cost of $100 million over 10 years.

The letter was signed by attorneys general in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington state. The attorneys general of South Carolina, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania are running for governor in their respective states.

Last week, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster said he was leading several other attorneys general in an inquiry into the constitutionality of the estimated $100 million deal he has dubbed the "Cornhusker Kickback."

A conference committee begins meeting this month to work out a compromise between House and Senate versions of the bill. Experts expect those talks to last into February.

-- Associated Press

© 2010 The Washington Post Company