Yesterday, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) took to the Senate floor to defend a provision in the Senate health care bill that requires the federal government to fully fund Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion. Nelson insisted that the deal “lay down” a marker “so that every state could object to this manner of unfunded mandates.” “There is no carve out. Each state between now and 2017…will have an opportunity to come back in and get this bill changed”:
As a governor — and my colleague is a former governor — we fought against federal unfunded mandates. And as a senator back here, I’ve also fought against unfunded and underfunded federal mandates. And this was in fact exactly that. While we weren’t able to get in this legislation an actual opt-out or opt-in for a state-based decision, what we did get was at least a line, if you will, so that in the future other states are going to be able to come forward and say, hey, either the federal government pays for that into the future or the state will have the opportunity to decide not to continue that so that we don’t have an unfunded federal mandate.
Nelson read from his correspondence with Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, in which the governor asked that the state be protected from the unfunded mandate but later criticized the matching fund proposal. “On the 20th of December I again wrote to the governor,” Nelson explained. “I pointed out that within hours after the amendment was filed, my colleague from Nebraska objected to the inclusion of these funds. ‘As a result, I’m prepared to ask that this provision be removed from the amendment in conference if it’s the governor’s desire,” Nelson said.
Last night, Heineman told Fox News, “We’re embarrassed by what’s going on. We’re very surprised. Nebraskans are angry and upset about what occurred. And so they need to set this straight.”