AUTHOR: U.S. Representative Gregg Harper

BACKROOM DEALS ARE BAD FOR AMERICA

WASHINGTON, DC – Democratic Members of Congress continue to strike sweetheart deals needed to pass their government takeover of health care in the smoke-filled corners of Washington. This unfair practice of burdening Americans across the political spectrum so that politically favored constituents can benefit must come to an end.

But as the behind-closed-doors health care negotiations carry on, press reports indicate that Democrats have not put a halt on the kickbacks. They began with the “Louisiana Purchase” dishing out $300 million in federal Medicaid subsidies to Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu’s home state of Louisiana. Senator Landrieu, along with Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, is known for “playing hard to get” on the health care bill. So enters Senator Nelson, who one-upped his Democratic colleague with the “Cornhusker Kickback” landing an exemption for Nebraska – only Nebraska – to receive permanent federal funding for Medicaid at the expense of Mississippi and all the other states. Now the unions have struck a deal pardoning union-negotiated plans from the “Cadillac Tax.”

This latest agreement between union representatives and Democrats may look shiny on the surface to union workers, but the bargain would saddle employees with higher taxes. Press reports point out that the $60 billion in changes to the “Cadillac Tax” will be paid for by a further unprecedented expansion of the Medicare payroll tax, which has no pay-in ceiling, to include non-wage income such as dividends and capital gains. Small businesses rely on these income sources to reinvest in their company and tax increases could force employers to lower wages, delay hiring or even lay off employees. So while union members can keep their current health care plan, they may lose their job.

While some are proud of their “deals,” others are learning just how unpopular you can become by earning special treatment. Soon after the “Louisiana Purchase” surfaced, Senator Landrieu took to the Senate floor explaining, “I’m proud to have asked for it. I’m proud to have fought for it, and I will continue to.” Conversely, Senator Nelson claims he is trying to get the Nebraska privilege dropped. “At the end of the day, whatever Nebraska gets will apply to all states,” Nelson declares. “My view is: Either fund it or un-mandate it.”

As the unions, Louisiana, Nebraska and other states pocket special benefits, state legislators in 26 states turn to legislation prohibiting any law from mandating individuals to purchase “government-approved” health insurance. In Mississippi, State Senators Alan Nunnelee (R–Tupelo) and Terry C. Burton (R–Newton) are championing the efforts to relieve our state from the anxieties of federal health care mandates. With all of the new layers of bureaucracy, federal mandates, tax increases and backroom deals, it is no surprise that the majority of states are joining the fight. I am encouraged that states are on board with this grassroots effort to defeat the Democrats’ one-size-fits-all health care plan before your choice is eliminated.

Conveniently for Democratic leaders, the sweetheart deals benefit their states and a politically connected constituency at the expense of American citizens. These unjust political payoffs define America’s frustration with Congress and should be exchanged for open government.