Blanche Lincoln: Nelson's Deal Should be Dropped

Ben Nelson said he never asked for Harry Reid to give Nebraska more funding for Medicaid, and now Blanche Lambert Lincoln says that bribe should be deleted from any final health care bill:

U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln said a political deal that benefits Nebraska and may have clinched a lawmaker’s support for health care legislation should be removed from the bill.

The Democratic senator from Arkansas on Tuesday said she was disappointed about a provision in the Senate’s health care bill that will require the federal government to permanently pay the entire cost of Medicaid expansion in Nebraska, while only paying the costs of expansion in the other 49 states for three years.

Conservative Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson lent his crucial support to the bill only after winning the provision for his constituents.

“The people of Arkansas didn’t send me to Washington to be a horse trader,” Lincoln told reporters before speaking at a Kiwanis Club luncheon in downtown Little Rock.

Lincoln did not say whether she would support a final version of the health care legislation if it included the Nebraska agreement. Lincoln, who voted for the health care legislation on Christmas Eve, faces a tough re-election battle this year and has faced criticism from Republicans over her support for the bill.

First off, let’s not get too excited about the prospect of Blanche Lincoln actually voting against the health care overhaul. If she was really brave enough to kill the bill, she likely would have done so before it passed the Senate. Having gone in for a penny, she’s likely in for the full pound.

But given that she was so prominently bribed herself, why would she now choose to attack someone else’s bribe? She has to recognize that if payoffs start getting deleted from the bill, hers will be among the first to go.

So why is Lincoln speaking up? It may simply be that she’s not very bright she was just trying to play the populist outsider in front of a local Kiwanis Club, not realizing that her comments would attract national attention. Or, is she trying to start a fight among competing constituencies now to bring the bill down before she’s forced to pull a Dorgan?

If so, she better realize the right tack probably isn’t the Medicaid deal for Nebraska. Harry Reid will be only too happy to have Uncle Sam pick up the full cost of the Medicaid expansion for all states in order to get a deal done. Heck, he might be forced to do so already, anyway. It’ll be too expensive to include in the health care overhaul itself; it’ll have to be part of a separate bill down the road. But is there any reason to think Reid won’t be eager to federalize Medicaid if that’s what he has to do to keep his conference happy?