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Nelson Medicaid Deal: An ‘Attack’ on Nebraskans’ Integrity

If there’s one rule that’s been pretty consistent throughout the ongoing debate over the appropriateness of federal earmarking, it’s that the critics usually hail from spots that don’t stand to benefit from the earmark in question. But don’t tell that to the state of Nebraska. In the wake of the deal cut between Democratic leaders and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) — under which Nebraska alone would be forever exempt from paying its share of a proposed Medicaid expansion — some state officials are grumbling that the shame to the state outweighs the financial benefit. From The New York Times:

“That’s not the way we operate,” said Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican who is sometimes suggested as a possible opponent for Mr. Nelson in 2012. Mr. Heineman said that as news of the Medicaid provision spread, people in Nebraska felt embarrassed at the thought that they had been made part of some political deal, even if it was to benefit them.

Any such exemption should affect all states, Mr. Heineman said, not just one. “Our citizens got angry,” he said. “It was an attack on their integrity.”

Ironically, Nelson has claimed that he fought to secure the deal in order to appease Heineman, who had been critical that Nebraska wouldn’t be able to afford the Medicaid expansion if it meant that the state were forced to pick up a portion of the larger tab.

The saga has taken a toll on Nelson. Faced with sinking approval numbers, the 60th vote in favor of the Democrats’ health-care reform bill was forced to take out a 30-second TV buy last night in which he calls the bill “a common sense approach” that’s “not run by the government.” He chose an opportune time. The ad aired during the Holiday Bowl, which featured the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

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