- The Washington Times - Friday, January 1, 2010

One of three

Republican attorneys general have been singling out Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, for the “Cornhusker Compromise” he secured in the Senate health care bill, but his state wasn’t alone in getting extra help from the government.

Nebraska, Massachusetts and Vermont each received exemptions from paying for the expanded Medicare benefits authorized in the law. Yet, Mr. Nelson has been the target of white-hot anger from the Republican Party while Democrats representing the two other states boosted in the bill are rarely mentioned in these attacks.

Thirteen attorneys general wrote a letter to Democratic leadership threatening to take legal action on Wednesday if the Nebraska exemption was not removed. But neither Massachusetts nor Vermont was mentioned in the letter. Inquiries to the office of South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, who authored the letter, were not returned as his staff was out for the New Year’s holiday.

The difference, however, that the attorneys general suggested in their letter is that Mr. Nelson did not agree to vote for the bill until he received, what he calls, the “carve-out.”

“I think they just look at Nebraska as the poster child for vote buying,” said Brian Darling, director of Senate relations for the Heritage Foundation.

Mr. Nelson, for his part, says the Medicaid benefit wasn’t a “deal breaker” for his vote. He wrote in an op-ed for the Nebraska-based North Platte Bulletin that “this would not have prevented me from voting for the bill.”

Now, the Nebraska senator says other states are trying to follow his example.

“This is a matter of basic fairness in which Nebraska is leading the way,” he wrote. “Already, two other states, Vermont and Massachusetts, are included and senators from other states, inspired by the Nebraska example against unfunded federal mandates, have begun talking about including their states.”

Governor’s threat

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, a Republican, is also threatening legal action against the health care bill.

Mr. Otter is objecting to the provision in the legislation that will fine Americans for not purchasing health insurance, the cost of the bill and the “undemocratic and inequitable compromises” made during negotiations of the bill.

In addition to the “Cornhusker Compromise,” Mr. Otter is highlighting another provision critics are calling “the Louisiana purchase” that puts extra money toward that state’s Medicaid programs.

“I find it dubious that taxpayers in Idaho and other states will have to cover 100 percent of costs associated with newly eligible Medicaid enrollees in Nebraska or provide an additional $300 million in Medicaid aid to Louisiana,” Mr. Otter said.

He concluded, “I question the wisdom as well as the constitutionality and legality of these bills and will explore all my options, including legal action, to protect Idaho and the U.S. Constitution should Congress adopt and the President sign compromise health care legislation.”

Another jab

“Well, all you got to do is look at the backroom deals, the sweetheart negotiations, the payoffs. I mean, this is the Bernie Madoff of the federal government now controlling your health insurance.”

- Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican, on Fox News on Wednesday evening

No tax yet

France’s Constitutional Council rejected a proposal to tax carbon-dioxide emissions Thursday, saying the plan had too many loopholes.

President Nicolas Sarkozy strongly favors the tax, but the court said too many businesses, like oil refineries, would be able to avoid it and that most of the costs would be paid by individuals using gasoline and heat.

“The large number of exemptions from the carbon tax runs counter to the goal of fighting climate change and violates the equality enjoyed by all in terms of public charges,” the constitutional council said in its ruling.

The new tax was scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1 and would have charged 17 euros, or about $24, per ton of carbon dioxide.

The council’s last minute scuttling of the plan has been widely interpreted as a defeat for Mr. Sarkozy, who has been publicly praised by former Vice President Al Gore for his environmentalist views.

Mr. Sarkozy touted the tax at the United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen last month. He told attendees, “This carbon tax has one objective to force you to change your behavior toward fossil fuels. Without fiscal pressure like this, nothing will change and it will be our children who pay the price.”

Government spokesman Luc Chatel has said a new revised plan will be presented by Jan. 20.

Trans-fat ban

California restaurants will be required by law to stop using trans fats starting Friday.

The state’s new ban on the unhealthy oil will be implemented in two phases, the first of which begins on New Year’s Day and requires restaurants, cafeterias and fast-food vendors to use healthier oils. The second phase, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2011, will require bakeries to use alternative oils.

Nutritionists have targeted trans fats, which contain high amounts of cholesterol, because it has been linked to heart disease. Advocates of the ban say reducing the amount of trans fats in the food supply will save lives.

While the law has been called evidence of a “nanny state” it does have bipartisan appeal in California. It was sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Tony Mendoza and signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, in April.

New York City put a similar ban in place in July 2008. Also, a number of national fast-food restaurants have already taken steps to limit or omit trans fats in their products, including McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@washington times.com.

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