"Call off the dogs" is the message Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) sent a coalition of Republican attorneys general examining the constitutionality of the Senate's healthcare bill, according to media reports.

ADVERTISEMENT

That request, made by Nelson's chief of staff to South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster on Thursday, arrives just days after 13 states' top prosecutors signaled they would examine the legality of the bill's Medicaid provisions, which in part won Democrats Nelson's vote.

At issue is a condition in the bill's Medicaid rules that would essentially cover all of Nebraska's new program participants. The deal, referred to by many in Republican circles as the "Cornhusker Kickback," seemed to assuage Nelson's fear that a manifest Medicaid expansion would harm his state's finances.

But a host of other states' lawmakers, equally concerned about the federal healthcare bill's local budget impacts, remain apoplectic at the deal. Some are now requesting the federal government play a bigger role in financing their new Medicaid patients, while others are clamoring for a constitutional challenge to the provision itself.

Leading that charge at the federal level are South Carolina Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint (R), who asked McMaster in a letter earlier this month to examine the legality of the Nelson deal. They argue Nebraska's exemption would unfairly and unconstitutionally saddle the 49 other states with an undue tax burden, as they would essentially foot the Cornhusker State's new Medicaid patients.

McMaster, a Republican with gubernatorial ambitions, concurred with the senators, and he has since rallied 12 other GOP attorneys general to join his ongoing investigation.

But Nelson's message last week was clear, according to Fox and other outlets that have obtained the memo. His office's call, which McMaster's office circulated in a memo later in the week, asked Republicans to call off their attack. So far, it seems the AGs have no intention of heeding his request.