How desperate has the White House become to get anything passed under the name of health-care reform? According to Michael Goldfarb’s source on Capitol Hill, the Obama administration has targeted the last remaining Democratic holdout, at least among moderates — and they’re willing to damage national security to extort his support. The White House has threatened Ben Nelson (D-NE) with the closure of Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska if he opposes Reid’s latest version, despite its status as the headquarters of US Strategic Command:
According to a Senate aide, the White House is now threatening to put Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base on the BRAC list if Nelson doesn’t fall into line.
Offutt Air Force Base employs some 10,000 military and federal employees in Southeastern Nebraska. As our source put it, this is a “naked effort by Rahm Emanuel and the White House to extort Nelson’s vote.” They are “threatening to close a base vital to national security for what?” asked the Senate staffer.
Indeed, Offutt is the headquarters for US Strategic Command, the successor to Strategic Air Command, and not by accident. STRATCOM was located in the middle of the country for strategic reasons. Its closure would be a massive blow to the economy of the state of Nebraska, but it would also be another example of this administration playing politics with our national security.
The Obama administration has little left to use for leverage. Why not national security? After all, if we’re going to bring terrorists into Illinois, what does it matter if we put the US Strategic Command on wheels for a few years?
One reason for the extortion attempt is that the latest version still hasn’t won any converts among the GOP. Susan Collins (R-ME), once considered a likely supporter of ObamaCare, announced today that the elimination of the public option and the Medicare buy-in isn’t enough to rescue the bill:
Today Collins told reporters that the bill under consideration in the Senate is “too deeply flawed for me to support it.”
“I don’t see voting for the current bill that is on the floor, even with the improvements that have been made,” Collins said. “I’m very leery of the impact of nearly $500 billion in Medicare cuts, particularly the cuts in home health care, which are completely counterproductive to the goal of lowering costs.”
Collins explained that she is continuing to work on the bill not because she intends to vote for it but because, “I think something is going to pass, and I would like to make that bill as good as possible, even if ultimately it’s not a bill that I can support.”
Collins’ colleague from Maine, Olympia Snowe, is not likely to contradict her, and no other Republicans will cast a vote for this monstrosity. Without the language prohibiting abortion funding, Nelson’s not likely to go for it, either, which leaves Reid at 59 votes — maybe. He may face some rebellion from the progressive side of his caucus, several of whom pledged not to vote for a bill without any kind of public option. Getting Lieberman on board may wind up creating just another problem for Reid … unless the White House intends on threatening more base closures and disruption for national security.
Update: Matt Lewis reported this first on his Twitter feed, apparently with a source other than Michael’s.