It sounds like a joke, but it’s all too real. John McCormack reports: “Senator Roland Burris is claiming credit for a provision in Harry Reid’s ‘manager’s amendment,’ unveiled Saturday morning, that could funnel money to ACORN through the health care bill.” And your problem is? Really, this is a graft-athon, so it’s only fitting that the senator selected by the most notoriously corrupt governor in America (a senator, by the way, who also lied about his connection to that same governor, only to be given a stern look and a slap on the wrist by his colleagues) would insert into the bill an earmark for “the Office of Minority Health” to be voted on in the middle of night so as to deliver a goodie bag for the most notoriously corrupt organization in America. It’s as if there were a conspiracy to see if Jon Stewart can be left speechless.
Earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed into law a ban on federal funding for ACORN, but a judge ruled that that law was unconstitutional. If a higher court reverses that ruling, ACORN may be prohibited from receiving funds through the Office of Minority Health earmark. But according to the Senate legislative aide, ACORN would still “absolutely” qualify for federal funding through the provision in the underlying Reid bill because the anti-ACORN appropriations amendment would not apply to funds provided through the health care exchanges.
A spokesman for Sen. Harkin, chairman of the HELP committee, wrote in an email that he “will look into” which organizations qualify for funding under these provisions. Spokesmen for Senators Reid and Dodd did not immediately reply to emails.
This is what comes from a legislative process as noxious as this. (It almost obscures another issue: why do we fund health care by race?) Dana Milbank dubs it the “cash for cloture” bill. Indeed, it may replace the infamous transportation bill that gave us the “Bridge to Nowhere” as the symbol par excellence of congressional graft. He explains:
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) even disavowed Nelson’s Cornhusker Kickback. “Nebraskans are frustrated and angry that our beloved state has been thrust into the same pot with all of the other special deals that get cut here,” he reported.
The accusations must worry Democrats, for Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), facing a difficult 2010 reelection contest, went to the Senate floor to declare: “I’m not happy about the backroom deals.”
I think Burris isn’t likely to be worried or embarrassed. But perhaps it’s just a bit too ludicrous to defend, so the conference committee might see fit to lose the ACORN handout. I’m sure Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can come up with an appropriate substitute to satisfy the junior senator from Illinois. Maybe a public-works project to improve and expand this structure.