Rep. Earl Pomeroy, a North Dakota Democrat, came under fire yesterday when the GOP began questioning if the student loan provision in the health care bill held a sweetheart deal meant to entice Mr. Pomeroy, who is currently undecided, to vote in favor of the bill.
The Democrats’ health care bill allows “State-Owned Banks” to be exempt from the government’s student loan takeover. (H.R. 4872):
“Section 2213. Agreements with State‐Owned Banks. This section amends Part D of Title IV to direct the Secretary to enter into an agreement with an eligible lender for the purpose of providing Federal loan insurance on student loans made by state‐owned banks.”
The Bank of North Dakota is the only bank in the nation that is state-owned, which put not only Rep. Pomeroy under suspicion for vote trading but also Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat. Mr. Pomeroy told reporters today, though, that this particular aspect of the student loan provision would be taken out.
“The feature of lending that involves loaner origination will be taken out. The Bank of North Dakota will continue to do servicing on student loans like other state sponsored loan pools (non-profit, government sponsored) across the country.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, remains skeptical. He told me:
“I’m sure many people will say it’s not in there or it’s resolved. The White House is saying the Sestak offer was not problematic, but they won’t quote who said what. So I think ultimately the investigation within the limits of the proper committees is not what people think was right or wrong but what actually happened.”
Mr. Issa also explained that giving back a bribe does not mean the problem necessarily goes away:
“If I offer you something to get you to do a bill…to vote for something, after you committed to yes, and then it becomes politically unpopular, you know the person has to stay in. You know that even though you take back the bribe, the person is still in,” he said.
“This is how we get people to spy against their country. If you ever read a spy novel, you bribe them, and then you let them know that if they ever stop giving you information, you’ll let them know that you bribed them and that they took the bribe.”
“Quite, frankly, anybody they’ve ever bribed into voting, ‘bribe’ being a strong word, but gave them something of value, even if that thing of value has to go away, they can’t change their position again. They can’t flip-flop and then flip again.”
Mr. Issa appeared confident that Mr. Pomeroy will not simply “un-agree” to anything he previously may have agreed to. Furthermore, the California Republican said to watch the order in which the undecided group of Democrat members vote, as it will be a notification on what kind of deal may have occurred in order to secure their vote.
“I’m positive that whatever he agreed to, he’s not going to un-agree to, and the famous undecided, in my opinion, from my own experience here on the hill, the undecided have made commitments and the commitment in most cases is ‘I will not let this bill go down, but I will not vote early.’ So when you look at all the undecided when we actually vote the deem to pass, the order in which these people log their votes will be telling of what the deal was,” Mr. Issa explained to me.
“The people who wait until the very end and then suddenly five people all vote or one flips or whatever, most of them will not vote early, they will vote at the end based on commitments they made, perhaps to not let the bill go down, which is a common commitment.”
As of now, the vote in the House on the health care bill is scheduled to happen on Sunday.