By Jan Schultz, The Imperial Republican News Editor
Who would have ever thought what happened Tuesday in Massachusetts would happen?
For the first time since the 1970s, a Republican, Scott Brown, was elected to the U.S. Senate in that largely Democratic, blue state to fill the seat held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. What that means for our President, the future of healthcare legislation and politics in D.C., no one really knows. (Of course, you’ll be able to listen to any news station on TV in the coming weeks, and the commentators will certainly tell us what it all means).
But, one thing is for certain. Nebraska continues to get mentioned in the national media (“Cornhusker Kickback” was mentioned on many of the news channels Tuesday night), and it‘s not because of our football team. We’ve now got a black eye, and it’s going to be there a long time, thanks to the back room negotiating by Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson.
Everyone now knows about his critical 60th vote last month to move the healthcare legislation along after our state got a special exemption from added Medicaid costs coming down the road as part of the proposed bill.
It must be noted Nelson’s sweetheart deal apparently may not happen at all now. Last week, amid mounds of pressure and a falling approval rating, Nelson asked the Senate Majority Leader to remove Nebraska’s “deal” from the bill, suggesting the same Medicaid exemption be given to all states.
I do agree with Nelson that the extra Medicaid costs in the proposed healthcare bill are another unfunded mandate that states can’t afford. And, maybe he didn’t ask for the deal directly. But, he agreed to sign on to the bill after the deal was made. There’s no question that happened.
The fact that “deal” may now be extended to all states doesn’t matter. People in Nebraska, and evidently across the country, don’t like back room dealings. And, saying that’s how things get done in Washington doesn’t cut it.
Some pundits are saying the Christmas season deal Nelson signed onto was among several things in the final weeks of the Massachusetts Senate campaign that helped it swing Brown’s way. According to the Boston Globe, Brown was down 15 points in their poll 10 days before the election, and was able to pull out a win this week. Granted, polls were all over the place on this election, but that big of a swing can’t be due only to a lackluster campaign by his Democratic opponent. Something else was brewing in Massachusetts.
The back room deals on healthcare, another recent “deal” exempting unions from the proposed Cadillac healthcare tax (while those in the private sector don’t get the exemption) and now the lack of open door negotiations between the House and Senate on the healthcare bills don’t set well with the average American. And, all that happened just in December!
A new poll out this week shows Sen. Nelson’s favorable ratings with voters in Nebraska have dropped below 50%. What that means for him in 2012 when he’s up for re-election is hard to tell now.
But, it’s doubtful many voters will forget the “Cornhusker Kickback” or the fact Nelson also voted for Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package last February. That rammed-through stimulus package was supposed to help the job situation, when unemployment was at 8%. Now, unemployment is at 10%. Some of that stimulus money has trickled into our area here, but, bottom line looking at the big picture, was it really a wise way to spend our tax dollars?
Hopefully, Tuesday’s events in Massachusetts will serve as a referendum that Americans don’t want business as usual in D.C. Politicians, both Democrat and Republican, would be wise to listen.