WASHINGTON (CN) – Joining the Republican fusillade against the health care bill, Nebraska Democratic Senator Ben Nelson on Monday blasted unfunded federal mandates. “We need to stop this madness of passing these fiscal time bombs onto the states,” he said on the Senate floor.
The health bill, as currently written, allows for the federal government to completely cover the costs of expanding Medicaid to some of the 47 million uninsured until 2015, at which point it would share the costs with states.
“That’s not right,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the government should not require states to undertake projects that it doesn’t fund itself. But while he has long criticized the health bill, he ended up voting for it on the Senate floor.
Nelson’s continued skepticism comes after the well publicized win of Republican Scott Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley in liberal Massachusetts in a bid to fill the late Edward Kennedy’s seat on the U.S. Senate.
The election destroyed the ability of Democrats to pass legislation over a Republican invocation of filibuster and it poses a significant threat to the passage of the health bill.
The House and Senate have narrowly passed two separate versions of the bill and party leaders are now negotiating a reconciliation of the two.
The two chambers would then have to pass the merged bill. Some changes to the bills could be passed through a reconciliation process that only requires 51 Senate votes, but such a process can only be used for budget issues.
Both versions would extend health coverage to more than 30 million uninsured and would bar insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
The Senate version varies from the House bill in that it heavily taxes expensive health plans and is less restrictive in that it allows women who receive subsidized insurance to buy abortion coverage with their own money.