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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Log Rolling Landrieu

Friday, November 20, 2009

Log Rolling Landrieu

From Jonathan Karl of ABC News ("The $100 Million Health Care Vote?") via the Drudge Report, we learn,
On page 432 of the Reid bill, there is a section increasing federal Medicaid subsidies for “certain states recovering from a major disaster.”

The section spends two pages defining which “states” would qualify, saying, among other things, that it would be states that “during the preceding 7 fiscal years” have been declared a “major disaster area.”

I am told the section applies to exactly one state: Louisiana, the home of moderate Democrat Mary Landrieu, who has been playing hard to get on the health care bill.

In other words, the bill spends two pages describing would could be written with a single world: Louisiana. (This may also help explain why the bill is long.)

Senator Harry Reid, who drafted the bill, cannot pass it without the support of Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu.

How much does it cost? According to the Congressional Budget Office: $100 million.
Log rolling is a legal and at times may be a useful legislative tool, but a $100 million payment to buy or sell a vote for a bill that will fundamentally change health care for 300 million Americans is immoral . It's like selling a vote to go to war. From Harry Reid's perspective, its cheap; thirty cents per American is a small price for Americans to pay to pass legislation that you support, particularly considering that it is other people's money. It also reveals that Reid is more concerned with "reforming" health care than with fiscal responsibility. It may also reveal Mary Landrieu's true measurement of the value of the bill. If Landrieu acted honestly for Louisiana's citizens and if Reid negotiated well for the rest of the country, the $100 million represents the state's opportunity cost. The people of Louisiana would be $100 million better off if the legislation fails.

In an earlier post, "Riddle Me This," I asked what is worse than Congress voting on bills that they have not read? My answer was proposing bills that cannot be understood if read. In that post, I referenced Nicholas Ballasy of CNSNews, ("Finance Committee Democrat Won’t Read Text of Health Bill, Says Anyone Who Claims They’ll Understand It ‘Is Trying to Pull the Wool Over Our Eyes’,") who quoted Sen. John Cornyn (Texas).
...the descriptive language the committee is working with is not good enough because things can get slipped into the legislation unseen.

“The conceptual language is not good enough,” said Cornyn. “We’ve seen that there are side deals that have been cut, for example, with some special interest groups like the hospital association to hold them harmless from certain cuts that would impact how the CBO scores the bill or determines cost. So we need to know not only the conceptual language, we need to know the detailed legislative language, and we need to know what kind of secret deals have been cut on the side which would have an impact on how much this bill is going to cost and how it will affect health care in America.”
Complex language may be part and parcel of writing legislation, but it also hides political payments that may be unpopular taxpayers. Perhaps this is why Reid is rushing the senate vote.

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