“I make no apologies for seeking this provision. I don’t back-up an inch.”
So said Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu, who took to the Senate floor today in defense of the Louisiana Purchase – the $300 million deal described as a bribe or political prostitution by her detractors.
Landrieu offered a fiery, indignant speech reacting to more than two months of ridicule and opposition by political opponents for her negotiated vote, denying that she engaged in backroom dealing or that she sold out her vote.
“I don’t need this job badly enough — maybe some people do, I don’t — to throw the people of my state under the bus to protect myself politically,” she said.
“Nothing about this effort was secret — it was public from the very first meeting that happened at the governor’s mansion in January,” Landrieu continued. “It was a broadly supported delegation effort from the beginning. And it was never a condition of my support for the bill.
“There should be some concerns about specific arrangements that were made, or for specific promises of support. This was not one of them. And the record will show that.”
Landrieu’s contention from the beginning was that her action in demanding the $300 million in federal dollars to compensate the state for a funding glitch arising from imperfections in the federal Medicaid formula represented nothing more than doing the bidding of Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal. It is true that Jindal began asking Landrieu and other members of the state’s Congressional delegation for an adjustment in the formula as early as January of 2009, so in that respect Landrieu has a point. However, the Senate health-care bill of which her constituents overwhelmingly disapprove was anything but the first opportunity to address the issue.
The Senator has taken a rather sharp edge against Jindal since the criticism of her dealmaking has arisen, and in today’s speech she was even sharper in expressing anger about his nonchalant reaction to the furor. “It takes guts (to be a leader). Some people have more of that than others,” she spat.
For his part, Jindal continued his policy of noncommittal statements toward Landrieu. He declined to address Landrieu’s comments and wouldn’t defend Landrieu’s Louisiana Purchase deal. He said the Senate health care bill is a bad deal for Louisiana and should be voted down regardless of Landrieu’s $300 million being included – as Jindal and his staff have pointed out, the state could be faced with as much as a billion dollars a year in additional Medicaid costs as a result of the federal government adding millions of lower-income Americans to the rolls and then dumping an unfunded mandate on the states. That ongoing unfunded mandate dwarfs Landrieu’s one-time $300 million score.
Jindal did call the current problem with the FMAP (Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage) formula “the most serious challenge facing our state.”
“I think it is absolutely important for our delegation to continue to work, and our delegation must work across party lines and across chambers to get this done,” he said.
Following the speech, Landrieu told reporters that James O’Keefe, the conservative activist arrested at her New Orleans offices after attempting to do an expose on her staff’s refusal or inability to answer phone calls from angry constituents reacting to the Louisana Purchase, was not the reason she took to the Senate floor.
“What I said about the gentleman that’s rattling off is he should save his excuses for the judge. He’s going to need them.”