Reid’s Gifts To Nelson And Landrieu Push Snowe Further Away

Sam Stein
The Huffington Post
12/21/2009

The perks that Senate Democratic leadership put into the final health care bill to win the support of conservative caucus members may cost them the one opportunity to secure a bipartisan bill.

On Monday, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the only Senate Republican who has voted for a version of health care reform, said that she was offended by the sweeteners that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) threw into health care legislation to win the votes of individual senators.

“I think we all should be concerned about all of these last-minute arrangements and sweetheart deals considered in there,” said the Maine Republican. “I don’t think that that is fair, frankly. As one who has worked on the policy for as long as I have and as long as I have and my staff, I just think that, in all fairness to all parts of the country, I think it is important that the policy be equitable.”

Snowe, who voted for the Senate Finance Committee’s version of reform, has said she is not inclined to back the current version produced by Democratic leadership — though she hasn’t fully ruled it out. It wasn’t because her home state of Maine wasn’t getting its piece of the pie, she insisted: “I didn’t ask for carve-outs for Maine. That wasn’t what I was all about.”

It was because the legislation has been tainted by parochial interests…

…In actuality, the sweeteners are proving more difficult for Democrats to defend than they have been for Johanns and Vitter to vilify. Progressives begrudgingly acknowledge that it sends a bad message when Democrats appear to be “buying” Senators off, with only a perfunctory nod to the defense that these paybacks won’t kick in until 2016.

The most common response has been that this is simply the seedy underside of the legislative process. And that it is better to have a bill with these perks than no bill at all. On Monday, however, Reid scrapped those lines in favor of something more novel: casting the carve-outs as politically virtuous and a reflection of a particular senator’s legislative acumen.

“That’s what legislation is all about,” Reid told reporters. “It is the art of compromise. In this great country of ours, Nebraska has many different problems than does New Hampshire. Michigan has many different problems than does Georgia. We have a wide range of different needs throughout regions of this country.”

“I don’t know if there is a senator who doesn’t have something in this bill that is important to them,” he concluded. “And if they don’t have something in it important to them, then that doesn’t speak well of them.”

The complete article is at The Huffington Post.

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