Sen. Ben Nelson claims there never was a “Cornhusker kickback” to secure his vote, vital to passage of the federal healthcare overhaul and tells Nebraska Radio Network the controversy surrounding his support for the law had nothing to do with his decision to leave politics.
In an interview with Nebraska Radio Network, Nelson recalls the first time he heard the term “Cornhusker kickback”.
“I wanted to know what it was,” Nelson says, pausing. “I want to know what it was. It didn’t exist and the people who characterized it that way knew it didn’t exist. There wasn’t something in there simply for Nebraska. There was something for all the states.”
Critics of the healthcare law immediately pounced on the deal they claimed Nelson struck with Senate leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, to secure his crucial 60th vote. The deal secured 100% federal funding of Medicaid expansion in Nebraska indefinitely. Nelson’s office claimed it merely served as a placeholder that gave way to the eventual language securing 100% funding for the first three years to all states to expand Medicaid coverage. The federal funding will drop to 90% eventually.
The tag stuck, though, as critics used it and other such deals struck to secure the votes needed for passage in the United States Senate to pour scorn on the process used to pass President Obama’s signature domestic measure.
Nelson, a Democrat, blames $8 million in television ads critical of his vote for turning Nebraskans against the federal healthcare bill and his role in its passage.
“When the well is poisoned, it’s not surprising that people get poisoned when they drink from the well,” Nelson says. “There was so much coming out, that people were poisoned by it.”
Nelson says the Supreme Court vindicated his stance. Though the court upheld the law, it ruled the federal government couldn’t force states to expand Medicaid.
He denies the controversy kept him from seeking a third term, claiming internal polling indicated he would win.
“So, you know there were people who didn’t like the vote, but they would still vote for me.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1 min.]
AUDIO: Sen. Ben Nelson discusses the “Cornhusker kickback” [7:30]