Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are decrying Democratic tactics in winning a milestone victory early Monday in the health-care reform debate.
Alexander complains that Democrats were rushing landmark legislation through the Senate in a snowstorm at Christmastime to keep the public in the dark about what the bill does. Corker is upset about backroom deals to bring reluctant senators on board.
Without a single vote to spare, Senate Democrats cut off a Republican filibuster of reform legislation shortly after 1 a.m., clearing the way for final vote now scheduled for Christmas Eve.
“It’s obvious why the majority has cooked up this amendment in secret, has introduced it in the middle of a snowstorm, has scheduled the Senate to come in session at midnight, has scheduled a vote for 1 a.m., is insisting that it be passed before Christmas — because they don’t want the American people to know what’s in it,” Alexander said.
“Our friends on the Democratic side seem determined to pursue a political kamikaze mission toward a historic mistake.”
In return for his vote, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson won the promise of full federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid in his state.
Gov. Phil Bredesen has estimated that cost in Tennessee at $1 billion over five years, and it has been a major point of contention in the health care debate. Governors across the country have complained that expanding Medicaid could bankrupt their states. Bredesen has called it “the mother of all unfunded mandates.”
Asked about the Nelson deal on CBS’ The Early Show, Corker said, “I feel the same way I hope all Tennesseans and people from other states feel, that it’s not appropriate that my state or your state or other states around the country pick up the tab for Nebraska — and something similar was done in Vermont — just so two people would sign onto a bill that otherwise they would not have supported.”
On CNBC, Corker also said, “There’s no doubt, from the standpoint of passage, last night’s vote was very important. I mean, in fairness it’s hard to see what would derail it coming out of the Senate.”
He added: “For those who want to pass a health care bill that’s full of trickery and budget gimmicks and is going to add tremendously to our budget deficit — for those who want to see that happen last night was a big night.”