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Landrieu Defends ‘Louisiana Purchase’ in Health Reform

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) on Thursday took to the Senate floor to rebut critics of the “Louisiana Purchase,” a provision she lobbied to have inserted in chamber’s $871 billion health care package to provide her state with an additional $300 million in Medicaid funding.

Landrieu rebutted suggestions that Democratic leaders inserted the provision to secure her vote, calling the accusation an outright lie. The Senator also emphasized that there was nothing secret about the manner in which the measure ended up in the Senate bill, insisting that it was public and included lobbying efforts by all members of the Louisiana Congressional delegation and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).

Landrieu said she would stay on the Senate floor until 6 p.m. Thursday to personally answer any criticism from her Senate colleagues.

“And if they don’t come, I would hope they would keep their mouth shut about things they know nothing about,” Landrieu said during impassioned remarks.

Landrieu told reporters following her floor speech that she chose to speak up because health care reform may not pass, and she wants to preserve the $300 million Medicaid funding no matter the vehicle.

“Suddenly I said to myself, maybe I should go to the floor of the Senate and explain this because it’s not clear to me what’s going to happen to the health bill,” Landrieu said.

Landrieu defended the provision by explaining that her state’s Medicaid funding needs to be changed after Hurricane Katrina. To maintain Medicaid funding at necessary levels, she said, the state would have to cut spending or raise revenue to the tune of $400 million to $600 million if the federal government doesn’t step in to help.

The provision has come under fire from some circles, along with a separate $100 million in Medicaid funding deal for Nebraska secured by Sen. Ben Nelson (D).

Critics of the Democrats’ health care reform bill have said that the Nebraska deal, referred to as the “Cornhusker Kickback,” and Landrieu’s Medicaid provision are examples of special back-room deals that the majority had to cut to pass its bill. The Senate package passed with 60 votes; all Republicans, including Sen. David Vitter (La.), voted no.

“I just want to put my critics on notice,” Landrieu said during her floor speech. “Nothing about this effort was secret — nothing.”

“Forgive me for asking for a health care amendment on a health care bill,” Landrieu added.

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