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3.12.09

Landrieu wants debate only when it helps her politically

In Sen. Mary Landrieu’s world, democratic debate is desirable only when it serves her interests, her reaction to the health care reform bill currently being considered in the Senate shows.

Recently, Democrat Landrieu caught a lot of flak for being the decisive vote for allowing the Senate to bring up for consideration the bill which will increase costs associated with health care while decreasing the quality of its provision as it attempts to usher in a government-run system. Landrieu got heat because, besides reminding that the vote was not on passage and just for consideration, she also had inserted a provision that would bring the state anywhere from $100-300 million to its Medicaid system for 2011. The state then, and in succeeding years, would have to pay vastly more for this program because the formula assigning payment proportions did not take into account injections of huge sums of federal dollars (for hurricane disaster recovery purposes) that boosted average state incomes.

But when it comes to debate over the merits of the entire country paying for that fix on Louisiana’s behalf, she appears dead set against kind of discussion. For years the taxpayers’ best friend in Congress has been Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, and he is trying to get an amendment that would remove that provision. Democrat leaders seem ready to fight that amendment from coming to the floor for debate.

If interested in the value of debate, confident in her request, and willing to respect the integrity of the institution, one would think Landrieu would welcome the opportunity to expound upon the merit of that provision. Instead, one of her hacks called it “political stunt” and that Coburn “has made a habit of grandstanding against Louisiana.” That may refer to Coburn’s questioning of the pace and use of recovery dollars in the past.

Of course, that neglects that Coburn tried to steer additional money to the state, specifically to repair the I-10 bridges over the Rigolettes, by chopping out unnecessary pork elsewhere – a fight on which Landrieu was AWOL. The current provision, another form of pork, Landrieu unabashedly has stumped for as a thinly disguised reason for her to allow the bill to be considered. Her ultimate goal is to actually vote against the entire measure so she can say she opposed this monstrously bad bill, yet for it have enough votes to pass it with this provision to claim credit also for this extra largesse.

But this strategy is too crass to admit, which is why she desperately wants to avoid debate. She then would have to explain why she does not seek a legislative solution in a separate bill, or as part of the regular appropriations bill for Medicaid through the federal department of Health and Human Services, for this formula change that otherwise would disproportionately impact the state. If this measure is so necessary, as Coburn wishes to contest, why can’t it stand alone, or in an appropriations bill? Is Landrieu that incapable and that ineffective as a senator to be unable to justify the fix on its own merits?

Probably, which is why she wants to short-circuit any hashing out of the issue. This contempt that she shows towards free expression tells us all we need to know about her true feelings about the value of policy discussion – if it benefits her political interests, debate away, but shut up if you oppose her especially when she cannot defend herself.

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