Sen. Landrieu defends ‘Louisiana Purchase,' says Jindal asked for it

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million “Louisiana Purchase” Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill.
 
Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the “Louisiana Purchase.”
 

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“Nothing about this effort was secret — it was public from the very first meeting that happened at the governor’s mansion in January,” Landrieu said. “It was a broadly supported delegation effort from the beginning. And it was never a condition of my support for the bill.
 
“There should be some concerns about specific arrangements that were made, or for specific promises of support. This was not one of them. And the record will show that.”
 
Landrieu took the rare step of releasing a Sept. 16, 2009 e-mail from the Jindal administration to the state’s congressional delegation. In the e-mail from Julia Kenny, chief of staff for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Kenny urges the delegation to “make our case” for an effort similar to one undertaken by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to secure Medicaid funds for Nevada.
 
The e-mail also said Louisiana officials were working to secure the Medicaid money from the Department of Health and Human Services for the money to repair what the state viewed as a flawed calculation under the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) program.
 
“We will be working on a joint statement with Gov. Jindal and [HHS] Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius to say they are working on the FMAP issue and asking Congress to solve it,” Kenny wrote. “That’s huge, if the commitment does lead to follow-through. Once there is agreement, then we will draft a statement for the delegation’s consideration applauding the secretary and administration for recognizing the problem and working with Congress to solve it. Thank you.”
 
Jindal released a statement in November acknowledging the provision was a state effort, but has been largely silent since the controversy erupted. Landrieu expressed anger at that “barely sufficient” gesture on Thursday, saying she has been made a scapegoat for something she was attempting on behalf of a Republican governor.
 
“The people of not just my state but the nation need to know the truth,” she said. “(Jindal) was asked on a number of occasions, and he just declined to comment. He could have stood up on any number of occasions and repeated that statement. He’s been asked about this 20-30 times publicly … A Republican governor asked for this.”

Jindal's office released a statement Thursday afternoon.

“I’m against the health care bill and always have been. You would have to live in a cave not to know that. I opposed it even with the FMAP language in it. I am glad the health care bill is dead. We can have honest debates about the issues and honest disagreements. I thought the health care bill was awful. Some members of Congress disagreed with my position and voted for it. That’s OK. The bottom line is that we are all going to have to work together and across party lines to fix the faulty FMAP formula that unfairly penalizes the health care needs of the poorest people in our state. That is an effort that can stand on its own merits," he said.

Uncertainty over the Democratic strategy for the healthcare reform bill prompted Landrieu to speak up Thursday, she said, emphasizing that the Medicaid provision should remain attached to the bill if it moves forward, or attached to another piece of legislation if the health reform effort fails.
 
“It’s clear to me that not only do I not know, but I think the members of our Democratic side are unclear about how we’re going to move forward,” she said. “When it became clear to me that there’s really no Democratic path forward for healthcare, the best thing I can do is clear the air now about this so that whenever we re-engage, this can be taken off the table and put in a separate category.”
 
Landrieu said she has won support for the provision from the administration, through Sebelius, as recently as three days ago.
 
Landrieu also released an Oct. 23, 2009 statement that noted that Reid and Landrieu were working on the Medicaid provision — two months before the healthcare vote.
 
The GOP has attacked Landrieu’s provision, claiming it was part of the deals made by Democrats to get the 60 votes necessary for the Dec. 24 passage. Along with a similar provision won by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) — which he said he did at the request of Gov. Dave Heineman (R-Neb.) — the GOP mocked Landrieu’s provision as “the Louisiana Purchase” and Nelson’s deal as the "Cornhusker Kickback.”

This article was updated at 7:15 p.m.