Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.
Republicans seized on an addition to the Senate healthcare bill that provides $100 million in extra Medicare subsidies for "certain states recovering from a major disaster," as pork designed to win the vote of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).
Will Democrats pay a political price for this amendment or will memories of Hurricane Katrina prevent a widespread backlash?
Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit blogger, said:
"Every election is an advance auction of stolen goods." This is just dividing the loot. It should remind people that the more power and money they give to the government, the more power and money will be spent in the purchase of . . . yet more power and money for the government.
Bill Press, host of the Bill Press Show, said:
Nobody will remember this well-deserved Medicare subsidy, and nobody can prove it "bought" Sen. Landrieu's vote. Republicans are just looking for anything to distract the American people from the fact that they voted, en bloc, for the status quo and for leaving insurance companies in charge.
Armstrong Williams, Pundits Blog contributor, said:
cash-and-carry time on the hill. Desperate to pass Obama’s signature
health care proposal, the Democrats are funneling money to key centrist
Democrats, whose votes are needed to pass healthcare reform.
the country calls this bribery. In D.C., the preferred term is “walking
around money.” Semantics aside, here’s the jig: the Democrats need
every Democratic senator, plus two independents that caucus with them,
to ensure that the healthcare bill is filibuster-proof. In order to
ensure that they get those votes, they’re now handing out bribes ...
er, um ... “walking around money” to those Senators who might oppose
Exhibit A: Centrist Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) recently declared she would vote for the Senate's first procedural motion on healthcare reform. Just 24-hours prior, the Democrats inserted an amendment into the bill providing for $100 million in extra Medicare subsidies for "certain states recovering from a major disaster." Landrieu's state of Louisiana, of course, was hit by Hurricane Katrina, thus making it a shoe-in for the extra pork. As if there were any doubt as to the intended recipient, the amendment clearly states that only Louisiana is entitled to the extra cash. In a press release, the GOP criticized her vote as the "new Louisiana Purchase." Otherwise stated, Sen. Landrieu was bribed. I can understand if she supports the healthcare proposal because she feels tax hikes and Medicare cuts are an acceptable price to pay for near-universal healthcare. I cannot accept that she is supporting a bill that may bankrupt the country in exchange for an unapologetic bribe.
Peter Fenn, Pundits Blog contributor, said:
So, let me get this straight -- the Republicans want to bring up their incompetence and mismanagement of Katrina and complain about help to that devastated area? Hmmm, bring it on.
Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:
A corrupt Louisiana politician? Who would've thought?!
The public is realistic -- i.e. completely cynical -- when it comes to
the behavior of politicians. They expect this -- and are rarely
There will be a backlash, but not against the "Louisiana Purchase," specifically, but against the healthcare "reform" bill in general if and when it becomes law. Because they will then discover that they've been "reformed" out of their private health insurance plans, confronted with a tax hike, and coerced into buying into a government-mandated healthcare plan that they may not want, or need.
Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:
The cost is equal to 0.003 percent of the budget or 100 soldiers in Afghanistan for a year. There are bigger political handouts than this, with less justification, every day of the week. If the Democrats pay a price for this it would only be because the media is even more incompetent and/or corrupt than is generally recognized.
Bernie Quigley, Pundits Blog contributor, said:
It is a disgrace. It is this kind of malfeasance, manipulation and criminal contempt for the citizenry that is leading states with vitality and life force to take their own initiatives.
A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, said:
No one wants to know how sausage is made, for this very reason. And this isn't new. There are likely more concessions we know nothing about. But Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) isn't wrong to fight for money for the very broke state of Louisiana and she isn't wrong to make a trade in exchange for her support on a procedural vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made his own deal to help his state cover the Medicaid expansion included in health care reform that are so unpopular with governors across the country. The states simply cannot afford to shoulder more Medicaid costs.
Michelle D. Bernard, president and CEO of the Independent Women's Forum, said:
The American public is so used to hearing examples of wasteful spending and the corrupt use of earmarks that the mini-scandal over the purchase of Senator Landrieu is likely to elicit little more than yawns. The public's opinion of Congress -- which boasts approval ratings of less than 30% -- could hardly be lower.
Yet, if the Democrats are unlikely to pay the price for this instance of vote buying, they are likely to pay a price for ramming through a health care package that few Americans say they want. A poll of women (who are generally assumed to be more sympathetic to an expanded role in health care) showed that two thirds of women would be less likely to support a candidate who supported moving people from private to government run care.
People are increasingly coming to realize that the Democrats' health care proposals would mean higher insurance prices for most families, higher taxes, more government debt, and big cuts to Medicare; in other words, it's a big political loser. Democrats can be certain that Republicans will work to tar opponents as tax-and-spend, big government liberals for supporting this massive expansion of government's role in health care. And with the facts supporting the allegations, it's a charge that's likely to stick.
Democrats won't pay a political price for the "bribe" given to Sen. Landrieu because the Republicans, who might exact such a price, are equally guilty of padding legislation with their own earmarks. The process of looting the taxpayers with special payments for virtually everything under the sun is the problem. If constitutional law and good sense ever return to Capitol Hill, the process will cease. At that point, the increasingly beleaguered American taxpayer will breathe a sigh of relief.