00:56 - Source: CNN
Trump arrives on Capitol Hill

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Back when Democrats used such tactics, Republicans hit them mercilessly for it

The New York nudge suggests Trump the dealmaker has overtaken Trump the populist

CNN —  

The Buffalo Buyoff? The Tammany Haul? The Albany Kickback?

While there is no clear quid pro quo, you can bet Democrats are whetting their rhetorical rapiers to argue that a provision that may be tucked into the Republicans’ plan to repeal Obamacare is aimed at a specific group of lawmakers from a specific state.

In this case, New York lawmakers from outside New York City.

Here’s the pertinent section from CNN’s latest report on last-minute Republican changes to the health reform effort:

House leaders also sought to win support from centrist Republicans from upstate New York leaders by adding a provision that would ban the federal government from reimbursing state Medicaid funds raised by local governments, according to New York Rep. Chris Collins. He told CNN the change would help bring along other members of his state’s delegation who are currently wavering on the bill.

A House GOP aide told CNN the change would apply to New York state only.

In New York, counties outside of New York City send $2.3 billion to the state to help pay for Medicaid. The amendment would give the state the incentive to stop passing down Medicaid costs to the counties, Collins said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo slammed Collins’ amendment, calling it a “death trap” because it would upend how the state pays for Medicaid coverage.

“Congressmen Collins and (John) Faso are calling their amendment a ‘tax savings plan for the county.’ Really it’s a deathtrap as there is no way to make up the shortfall. The Upstate New York and Long Island economy will falter or collapse if the health sector is damaged,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Another New York Democrat, Rep. Louise Slaughter, called the new Medicaid provision a “gimmick” and “nothing more than pure political cover for wavering New York Republicans that know the Republican health care plan would devastate our state, especially upstate rural areas.”

The New York Daily News pounced on Trump’s plan with a scathing cover Wednesday morning, depicting Trump as “Austin Powers” villain Dr. Evil.

Back when Democrats used such tactics – also, interestingly, focused on funding Medicaid in certain states – Republicans hit them mercilessly for it and used the taint of those backroom deals to mobilize public opinion against the law as a whole.

There was the Cornhusker Kickback – a special carveout for the federal government to pay additional Medicaid costs in Nebraska meant to woo then-Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson. Then came the Louisiana Purchase, a bid to entice then-Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu with an extra $300 million in Medicaid assistance for her state.

Nelson’s provision was dropped from the bill. Landrieu’s was not. Others made the final item, too.

“Look at how this bill was written,” railed then-House Minority Leader John Boehner during a 2009 floor speech that has become famous. “Can you say it was openly, with transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals struck behind closed doors? Hidden from the people? Hell no you can’t!”

Boehner’s gone now – retired – and so are Nelson, also retired, and Landrieu, who was defeated in 2012. There’s a new cadre of lawmakers on Capitol Hill and a new president, Donald Trump, who has promised two things that could at times run counter to each other.

And as the health care negotiations come down to the wire, it’s becoming more and more clear that Trump will have to choose. He can either embrace his persona as the king dealmaker, doling out favors to keep the machinery rolling, or stick to his campaign pledge, close down the backrooms and “drain the swamp.”

The New York nudge suggests Trump the dealmaker has overtaken Trump the populist.

Both the President and House Speaker Paul Ryan need to pass this health bill to keep a promise and to move on to other high priority items like tax reform. But they’re trying to pass an unpopular bill in the House and hope that it can also get enough votes in the Senate. The math is difficult and the last-minute adjustments to any piece of legislation can color the rest of it.

Trump made a sales pitch Tuesday on Capitol Hill where he predicted House Republicans would get to the 216 votes they needed. Leaving the meeting afterward, he said additional changes could be made to the bill, but did not go into detail. The clock is ticking to a planned Thursday vote in the House.

If it passes — no sure thing — Republicans might have a hard time answering Boehner’s question about how the bill was written.