Hagan defends Senate Democrats' health care deal

Charlotte ObserverDecember 23, 2009 

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan defended the political tradeoffs in the Senate health care bill Tuesday, even as seven state attorneys general probe the constitutionality of what Sen. Lindsey Graham called a "sleazy process."

"I'd say that (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid knows how to get 60 votes, and that was very important to our country in order to move forward with that legislation," Hagan told the Observer.

Her comments came the day S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster said he and his Republican counterparts in Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, North Dakota, Texas and Washington state are taking a joint look at the deal they've called the "Nebraska compromise."

To get the 60 votes he needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, Reid, a Nevada Democrat, sweetened the pot for some senators including Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat.

His party's last holdout, Nelson wrung out a promise that the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost indefinitely for expanding Medicaid for low-income Nebraskans.

"Whether in the court of law or in the court of public opinion, we must bring an end to this culture of corruption," McMaster said, adding that the negotiations "on their face appear to be a form of vote buying paid for by taxpayers."

The health care bill passed another procedural test Tuesday as senators voted to shut off debate. Hagan plans to vote for it when it comes to the Senate Thursday morning. North Carolina's other U.S. senator, Republican Richard Burr, opposes it.

Nebraska isn't the only state that would get special benefits.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, had expressed reservations after leaders dropped the so-called public option. He decided to support the bill after his state got extra help for Medicaid and he got $10 billion for a pet project, nationwide community health centers. Louisiana and Massachusetts also got help with their Medicaid programs.

And Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut helped get $100 million in the bill for a new hospital at a university that could be built in his home state.

"That's not change you can believe in, that's sleazy," Graham, of South Carolina, said on NBC's "The Today Show" Tuesday. Later, he told NPR that bill is "a joke."

"They want 60 votes more than they want a quality bill," he said.

Read more at CharlotteObserver.com

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