Democrats double down on backroom deals
posted at 3:32 pm on February 4, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
John McCormack says that Democrats just can’t help themselves, but I don’t think that’s quite right. They’ve been helping themselves to heaping piles of pork dollars by cutting deals in backroom negotiations, for instance — and they want to keep right on helping themselves with our tax dollars. In fact, House Democrats want to double down on cutting deals in the dark:
The health care bill is in trouble, but a series of narrow deals — each designed to win over a wavering senator or key interest group — is alive and well, despite voter anger over the parochial horse-trading that marked the rush toward passage before Christmas.
With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s “Cornhusker Kickback,” which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.
Not only that, House liberals want to reopen the labor deal struck just days before Democrats lost their 60-vote majority — not to dial it back but to provide more generous protections from the tax on Cadillac insurance plans.
Ben Nelson’s Cornhusker Kickback will get stripped from the bill — mainly to protect Nelson from the wrath of his constituents, who got angry when Nelson reneged on a pledge to ensure that no federal dollars would subsidize abortions or abortion coverage. However, Mary Landrieu’s $300 million Louisiana Purchase will survive despite being three times as expensive as the Cornhusker Kickback. So will an exemption on Cadillac-plan taxes for Michigan, as will $500 million to Massachusetts for Medicaid reimbursements and $600 million to Vermont, for its “leadership” on cost control.
Basically, the Democrats have decided to embrace the entire notion of backroom deals and opacity in government despite the clear lesson from the Massachusetts special election. Democrats promised transparency, but delivered lobbyist-driven perks for unions instead. Now they’re talking out of both sides of their mouths, as Politico makes clear by using John Kerry as an example:
“It is very clear from the process that took place in the final days of the bill that Americans are disturbed about the process,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). “I believe it would be important for us to take out the egregious items.”
Does that mean he might forfeit the money for Massachusetts?
Not at all. Kerry argued the funding was completely legitimate because Massachusetts has already used significant state resources to extend benefits beyond what the current federal Medicaid rules require.
“I don’t think adjusting for Medicaid costs for states that have already done some things is inappropriate,” Kerry said. “I’m not for a single-state fix. I’m for every state in the country that has taken action, to have that reflected somehow, and that should be part of the fix.”
Kerry’s remark highlights an axiom of Washington: Every deal is egregious except your own.
In other words, Kerry was for transparency and fiscal responsibility at the same time he was against them. Just when you thought Kerry couldn’t possibly top his 2004 performance on vacillation, he manages a flip-flop with a double twist. This time, he has plenty of company in his own caucus, but Kerry at least should have learned a lesson from his own constituents when they elected a Republican, Scott Brown, to the Senate for the first time in 38 years.
The Democrats won’t learn this lesson until voters force a lot of them into retirement in the fall, which looks more and more certain with each attempt to cut deals with lobbyists and stretch rules to the point of breaking them to get their wildly unpopular statist bill passed.