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Mr. DeMint seemed to think she was making it too complicated. “Unlike most of the big government solutions coming out of Washington that cost taxpayers billions, this amendment doesn’t cost a single penny,” he said. “We can turn the water on so thousands of Central Valley farmers can get back to work without creating another federal program or bailing out another industry.”

Mr. Nunes told The Washington Times he was “very disappointed” that the DeMint amendment was not approved. “California’s senators are behaving as if they represent minnows, not human beings,” he said.

Threat from HHS

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, had some strong words for the government office that tried to silence an insurance provider based in his home state.

“For explaining to seniors how legislation might affect them, the federal government has now issued a gag order on that company, and any other company that communicates with clients on the issue, telling them to shut up - or else,” Mr. McConnell said of a letter from an office inside the Department of Health and Human Services that asked Humana to quit “misleading” and “confusing” its customers about health care reform legislation.

HHS sent this aggressive request to Humana because the company had sent a mailer to its customers that warned, “Millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many important benefits,” if the legislation passes.

The letter by Teresa DeCaro, acting director of Medicare’s Drug and Health Plan Contract Administration Group, read in part: “We are instructing you to end immediately all such mailings.”

“Please be advised that we take this matter very seriously and, based upon the findings of our investigation, will pursue compliance and enforcement actions,” the Sept. 18 letter said.

“It’s hard to imagine any justification for this,” Mr. McConnell said. “But if the people behind this latest effort believe they have some legal justification for shutting up a private company, then they need to explain themselves to the American people. More specifically, they need to explain to 11 million seniors on Medicare Advantage why they shouldn’t be allowed to know how cuts to this program will affect their coverage.”

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at