Buffett's Puppet (7): Tennessee Bribery Bill Named for Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson

by Stephanie Condon | Political  Hotsheet | January 29, 2010

Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has come under widespread criticism for a deal he brokered with Democratic leaders before agreeing to vote for the Senate health care bill. Now, legislators in Tennessee are hoping to make an example out of him.

Two Republicans in the Tennessee general assembly have introduced the "Ben Nelson Act to Ensure Political Integrity." The bill would redefine bribery to include circumstances in which elected officials agree to vote for or against legislation in exchange for special consideration for their districts, Chas Sisk of the Tennessean reports.

Last month, Democrats were struggling to keep all 60 of their caucus members on board with their health care legislation. In order to win over Sen. Nelson, they agreed to make the federal government pay entirely for any expansion of Medicaid in the state of Nebraska, even though other states would have to dip into their state budgets to meet the proposed expansion.

As Democrats now negotiate the final terms of a compromise bill that could pass in the House and the Senate, it is very likely they will remove Nelon's so-called "sweetheart deal."

Nelson's deal was roundly criticized by both Democrats and Republicans, and even Nebraska voters largely disapproved of it. Nelson later said he never intended for just his state to benefit from the deal but wanted all states to be able to opt out of new Medicaid spending.


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