The price of doing business

THE PRICE OF DOING BUSINESS…. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters yesterday that it took quite a lot of effort to shape a health care bill that could generate as broad a base of support as this one.

“There are 100 senators here, and I don’t know that there’s a senator that doesn’t have something in this bill that isn’t important to them,” Reid said. “If they don’t have something in it important to them, then it doesn’t speak well of them.”

That last part seems to have made an angry group of Republicans that much more furious. The accusation, of course, is that the bill is now loaded with “pork,” as the Wall Street Journal put it, as senators were “bought off.”

As Eric Boehlert explained, the complaints sound a little silly.

For anybody who’s spent more than three weeks inside the Beltway, the allegations of legislative arm-twisting certainly sound naive, since that’s how the D.C. game has been played for going on two centuries now. But nonetheless, conservatives insist Democrats have stooped to some kind of historic low.

But I can’t help wondering what Nick Smith thinks about those claims. Because back in late 2003, when was serving as a Republican member of Congress from Michigan, Smith opposed the Bush White House’s attempt to revamp Medicare when the issue came up for a vote in November. Republican leaders quickly realized that night that they didn’t have the votes and started leaning on their own members.

At the time, House GOP leaders literally promised to deliver $100,000 in campaign contributions to Smith in exchange for his vote. The attempted bribery of lawmakers on the House floor was so obscene, it prompted yet another Ethics Committee investigation into Tom DeLay’s antics.

By comparison, Democratic “sweeteners” on health care are about as common as the sunrise. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) was in a position of leverage before the motion to proceed, so she secured some funding for her state. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was a long-time holdout, so he sought some extra Medicaid money for Nebraska. All kinds of senators received all kinds of inducements, prompting Republican apoplexy, as if this were some kind of unprecedented abuse.

Are they new here? Congress has always operated this way. When Republicans were in the majority, the “incentives” were even more shameless and blatant — and unlike the Dems’ bill, the GOP payoffs were all added to the deficit.

At this point, after so many progressive measures have been removed from the health care bill, I suspect Republicans don’t even remember what it is they hate so much about the proposal, and are hyperventilating about “sweeteners” as a way to rationalize their opposition. They’ll have to do better than this — no one really cares about inconsequential side deals.