It's not my job as a journalist to offer my opinion. There are plenty of people to do that...talk show hosts, analysts, pundits, and editorialists. So let's just file this blog under "news observation."
Here's the setting. The country has been involved in some pretty contentious debate for the better part of a year over health care reform. The issue is not whether people should have health care...the issue is how to accomplish that goal. And it raises many questions. How can health care coverage be provided for as many people as possible that doesn't add more debt to a country already on the financial brink? How do you make sure changes don't amount to rationing health care? How do you ensure those with health care can still go to the doctors they go to now? Should there be a government sponsored plan, and if so, how do you make sure taxpayers aren't funding procedures they morally and ethically oppose?
It is against that backdrop that one U.S. Senator has apparently decided to play "let's make a deal." U.S. Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat from Nebraska, has been holding out his support for health care legislation. The Democrats had 59 votes. His support would be the crucial 60th vote to move the legislation forward.
Senator Nelson has centered his opposition on a provision that would cover abortions. That opposition is understandable. So this weekend, it would seem he, and all others who don't favor abortion, or government funded abortion, scored a victory when Democratic leaders agreed to limit insurance coverage of abortions. With that agreement, Nelson voted "yes" to move the legislation forward.
But wait a minute. Senator Nelson also got something else. For his yes vote, he also got a deal where the federal government will pick up the tab for expanding medicaid in his state of Nebraska...the only state to receive the windfall. Medicaid is the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with limited income in the United States.
So, let's get this right. While all the debate is going on about how to craft health care legislation, Senator Nelson holds out his vote until he gets something in return to benefit his state?
In the end, Senator Nelson's vote does not seem to be based entirely on what is best for the country. Some might argue he bargained his vote in exchange for some goodies for his state.
It would seem to me, as a "news observation," that this is precisely what the American people...Democrat, Republican, or otherwise...despise about politics and politicians.
Sure, we can vote them out of office. And sometimes we do. But there's always another deal-maker waiting in the wings. The "Wheelin & Dealin" that is systemic of local, state and national politics, may seem to politicians that it's benefiting their constituents...but Senator Nelson's vote underscores how wrong that thinking actually is.
Will politicians ever get it? Just asking.