Harry Reid’s $100 Million Mystery

Remember when Barack Obama claimed he’d be ushering in a “new era of transparency” upon taking office? Look no further than the health care bill for an explosion of that myth, if in fact you needed convincing after previous events in the president’s first year.

The “manager’s amendment” introduced late Friday night upon Ben Nelson’s sellout and agreement to become the 60th vote has an interesting bit of gibberish in it which appears on page 328-9:

SEC. 10502. INFRASTRUCTURE TO EXPAND ACCESS TO CARE.
(a) APPROPRIATION.—There are authorized to be appropriated, and there are appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Services, $100,000,000 for fiscal year 2010, to remain available for obligation until September 30, 2011, to be used for debt service on, or direct construction or renovation of, a health care facility that provides research, inpatient tertiary care, or outpatient clinical services. Such facility shall be affiliated with an academic health center at a public research university in the United States that contains a State’s sole public academic medical and dental school.

(b) REQUIREMENT.—Amount appropriated under subsection (a) may only be made available by the Secretary of Health and Human Services upon the receipt of an application from the Governor of a State that certifies that—

(1) the new health care facility is critical for the provision of greater access to health care within the State;

(2) such facility is essential for the continued financial viability of the State’s sole public medical and dental school and its academic health center;

(3) the request for Federal support represents not more than 40 percent of the total cost of the proposed new facility; and

(4) the State has established a dedicated funding mechanism to provide all remaining funds necessary to complete the construction or renovation of the proposed facility.

At ABC News, they’ve picked up on the story. A Senate Republican said “If taxpayers are going to be expected to sign the check, Democrats should at least let them know who to make it out to.” And meanwhile, Democrat staffers said there are 11 states with medical schools which could qualify for the $100 million.

Louisiana would seem to be one of the 11, though Mary Landrieu had apparently already turned her trick for a cloture vote. LSU has medical and dental schools in New Orleans which are closely tied, though the university also operates a medical school in Shreveport. A dedicated funding stream might be missing, as well.

Over at Power Line, they’re speculating that the hospital in question is Wishard Memorial in Indianapolis. But ABC News talked to Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd’s people, who say that Dodd was able to rig the language in favor of the University of Connecticut’s medical school.

Politically, it makes sense – Connecticut voters passionately hate Dodd, easily one of the most corrupted figures in the Senate, for his multiple scandals including the Countrywide fiasco, Fannie and Freddie, his Irish Cottage and the AIG bonus affair. Most observers believe Dodd is toast next year at the hands of likely GOP opponent Rob Simmons, so giving him a fat, juicy bit of pork like $100 million for a new UConn medical center in this bill might help keep the wolves off his door in the thinking of the Democrat leadership.

Hey, what the hell? It’s not THEIR money being spent trying to prop up Dodd. Why not give it a shot?

Meanwhile, in a New York Times piece detailing how every one of the 2,900 residents of Libby, Montana are now getting put on the Medicare rolls because some of them got sick as a result of exposure to asbestos in a local mine, there is this:

Dr. Atul Grover, the chief lobbyist for the Association of American Medical Colleges, said he believed that Commonwealth Medical College, a new school in Scranton, Pa., was a likely candidate.

Reached at home on Sunday, Dr. Robert M. D’Alessandri, the president of the medical school, said initially, “We meet the conditions” in the Senate proposal. But then he said he was not so sure.

Pennsylvania? Arlen Specter is up for re-election, he’s in deep trouble and he’s a complete squirrel the Democrats can’t trust to vote with them any more than the Republicans could before he turned his coat.

Regardless of who’s getting the $100 million, it’s a perfect example of how sleazy and disgusting the entire process of getting this grotesque, flabby, naked tub of goo through the 60-vote needle has been. Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn, who has emerged as probably the best of a mediocre lot of GOP senators and probably should run for Mitch McConnell’s leadership position at the next opportunity, probably put it best.

“This process is not legislation,” he said. “This process is corruption. It’s a shame the only way we can come to a consensus in this country is to buy votes.”

Meanwhile, Rasmussen reported last week that by a 56-40 margin the American people rejected this disaster, and by 57-34 they said it would be better to do nothing than to pass the Senate bill. Rasmussen’s numbers aren’t anomalous; the RealClearPolitics average of polls (the latest one of which finished a week ago; today and tomorrow we should have a fresh round) had the bill getting a guilty verdict in the court of public opinion by a 51.6-37.9 count.

It’s highly unlikely those numbers will get better after the revelations that thanks to Nelson the American people get to subsidize Medicaid in Nebraska forever or that $100 million of our tax dollars will go to a hospital somewhere without someone being honest enough to give us the reacharound courtesy of letting us know who our beneficiary will be.

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