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January 5th, 2010 3:47 pm
The Constitutionality of the “Cornhusker Kickback”

Much has been made about the secret sweetheart deal Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) struck with Senate leaders in exchange for his “Yea” vote on ObamaCare. 

The deal, known as the “Cornhusker Kickback,” permanently exempts Nebraska – and only Nebraska – from paying for expanded Medicaid mandates called for in the Senate-passed “reform” bill.  In other words, taxpayers in all other states will be stuck paying the tab for Nebraska’s expanded Medicaid rolls if that provision survives final passage.

But is the “Cornhusker Kickback” constitutional?

On December 30, thirteen state attorneys general sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calling the provision “constitutionally flawed” and threatening legal action unless the provision is dropped from the health care bill. 

The attorneys general wrote:

The undersigned state attorneys general, in response to numerous inquiries, write to express our grave concern with the Senate version of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (‘H.R. 3590’). The current iteration of the bill contains a provision that affords special treatment to the state of Nebraska under the federal Medicaid program. We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed. As chief legal officers of our states we are contemplating a legal challenge to this provision and we ask you to take action to render this challenge unnecessary by striking that provision.

It has been reported that Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson’s vote, for H.R. 3590, was secured only after striking a deal that the federal government would bear the cost of newly eligible Nebraska Medicaid enrollees. In marked contrast all other states would not be similarly treated, and instead would be required to allocate substantial sums, potentially totaling billions of dollars, to accommodate H.R. 3590’s new Medicaid mandates. In addition to violating the most basic and universally held notions of what is fair and just, we also believe this provision of H.R. 3590 is inconsistent with protections afforded by the United States Constitution against arbitrary legislation. …

According to a lengthy report by CNSNews.com, “The Dec. 30 letter was drafted by South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and gained the signatures of 12 other Republicans. Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson is the only Democrat, so far, to express support for the possible litigation.”

Read the letter is its entirety here (.pdf).

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