Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)
Sen. Ben Nelson is CAGW’s January Porker of the Month
(Washington, D.C.) – Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today named Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) its January Porker of the Month. Sen. Nelson furnished the pivotal 60th vote for cloture on December 19, 2009, allowing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) healthcare bill to come to the Senate floor for final passage. Nelson held out until he was able to parlay his vote to secure, among other perks, a permanent exemption for Nebraska to the Medicaid expansion in the Reid bill, saving the state between $59 million and $281 million. The deal has been dubbed the “Cornhusker Kickback.” The federal government will cover most of the states’ additional Medicaid expenses until 2017. According to The Heritage Foundation, the cost of benefits and administration for the expanded program will cost the states between $32.2 billion and $60 billion through 2019.
In the immediate aftermath of the Cornhusker Kickback, Sen. Nelson stated that he had been under pressure from Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) to negotiate the deal. However, Gov. Heineman denied that assertion, saying that “Under no circumstances did I have anything to do with Senator Nelson’s compromise…The responsibility for this special deal lies solely on the shoulders of Senator Ben Nelson.” The senator then scrambled to send a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) asking that the language be removed, followed closely by a claim that the carve-out was always meant as a “placeholder” so that, eventually, all the states could get the federal government to cover their Medicaid costs, a very expensive proposition. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) remarked in a December 19, 2009 Politico article that Nelson may have done the “‘other 99 senators a favor because the federal government is paying for the entire Medicaid expansion through 2017 for every state…When you look at it, I thought well, God, good, it is going to be the impetus for all the states to stay at 100 percent [after 2017]. So he might have done all of us a favor.’”
In the days following the deal, public opinion of Sen. Nelson plummeted. The January 6, 2010 Fremont Tribune reported that Sen. Nelson told reporters that “…it was a mistake to take healthcare on as opposed to continuing to spend the time on the economy.” Sen. Nelson has continued to frantically shore up public opinion among his constituents, to little avail. A January 17, 2010 Omaha World Herald survey of 500 registered voters reported showed that Nelson’s job approval rating has dropped to 42 percent and his disapproval rating was 48 percent. In April 2006, Nelson had an approval rating of 73 percent, the highest for any senator. His colleague, Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), who voted against the Reid bill, has a 63 percent job-approval rating.
For his Cornhusker Kickback boondoggle, classless congressional CYA behavior, and opening the door to a congressional stampede to try to fully federalize one of the most wasteful government-run healthcare entitlement programs ever conceived, Sen. Ben Nelson wins the dubious title of CAGW’s January Porker of the Month.
Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government. Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.
This is another one that needs to go come election time, and judging from his numbers, he'll go out the door with many other Democrats. Senator Nelson is just one blatant example of the Washington system. Deals like this go on all the time. Votes are traded and sold on the House & Senate floors like stocks at the New York Stock Exchange. Who pays for it? You guessed it - WE DO.