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Pork Barrel Politics at Their Worst

In the dead of night at 1:17 a.m. the Senate invoked cloture on the "manager's amendment" to the Reid health care takeover bill. This was the first key vote to end debate in the Senate, and it passed along party lines, 60-40, with every Democrat voting to end debate and move the amendment forward.

The amendment was an example of corrupt, pay-for-play politics at its worst. The key provisions included a buy-off for Nebraska to secure Sen. Ben Nelson's vote. Federal taxpayers will be forced to pick up the tab for 100% of the cost of the bill's Medicaid expansion in Nebraska--forever. Vermont got $250 million in extra federal Medicaid funding to prevent Bernie Sanders from bolting from the left.

A mysterious $100 million earmark for a hospital "...at a public research university in the United States that contains a State’s sole public academic medical and dental school" was also included. 

Nobody claimed credit for it until just an hour later, when Sen. Chris Dodd admitted to putting it in the bill for the University of Connecticut. Guess what? Dodd is in a tough re-election fight.

A previous deal had already added $300 million in extra Medicaid funding for Louisiana to secure Sen. Mary Landrieu's vote.

This bill has become old-fashioned pork-barreling at its worst, with these outrageous earmarks greasing the wheels for passing an outrageous Washington takeover of our health care that will raise taxes hundreds of billions of dollars and put Washington politicians and bureaucrats in position to second-guess our doctors and punish them for not following federal recommendations.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the new bill costs $871 billion, raises federal revenue $498 billion, cuts Medicare $438 billion, and at the end of ten years still leaves 23 million uninsured. The bill assumes huge cuts in doctor reimbursement rates that Congress will never accept, balances 10 years of revenues against just 6 years of spending, and uses what Democratic Budget Chairman Kent Conrad called a "Ponzi scheme" known as the CLASS Act to conceal the real costs. This budget-busting bill will really cost trillions and drive our already out-of-control national debt much higher.

This fight is not over. There will be two more 60-vote cloture votes this week, and if we can shame even one Democrat into opposing this pork-packed monstrosity we can stop it. Those votes are Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. and Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m.

If the Senate does pass the bill, it will go back to the House where an earlier version passed that chamber by just 5 votes. If enough taxpayers in the un-favored states object strongly enough to the corrupt deals bestowed at their expense on Nebraska, Louisiana, and Vermont maybe we can convince a few more House Democrats to vote no and beat this thing.

Keep fighting.

Phil Kerpen is policy director at Americans for Prosperity. He is a frequent contributor to the Fox Forum. 

Phil Kerpen is the founder of American Commitment Action Fund, on the web at www.BookerFAIL.com.