Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ben Nelson: One of the Worst Members of Congress

On a recent business trip I had the opportunity to peruse a stack of periodicals that piled up during the 2010 election cycle.  One of the magazines was the November issue of Esquire, a magazine that I received as a gift.  One article sought to identify the 10 Best and Worst Members of Congress.   

And guess who appeared among the "Worst Members of Congress" right alongside Rep. Charlie Rangel? 

The Father of the Cornhusker Kickback--Senator Ben Nelson.

Here are a few excerpts from the Esquire piece:
Once the coveted "sixtieth vote," Nelson, the most obstreperous Democrat in the Senate, maneuvered for a sweet deal for his home state to have its mandated expansion of Medicaid paid for by the federal government permanently in order to get his vote for health-care reform. This is a deal no other state gets. Republicans mocked this arrangement as the "Cornhusker Kickback," and Nelson was stunned to find that every last person in his home state was horribly embarrassed by his deal; he muttered that it was all a misunderstanding, and it was really all about abortion funding anyway, which is one of his standby excuses for everything. Antiabortion groups, once stalwarts for the senator, decided that they didn't trust him, either. Now no one trusts him, and he has been tarred with a catchy new name for the stupid thing he did, which imperiled the passage of health-care reform. In the end, Harry Reid found a way to pass the House bill without Nelson's vote, and Nelson was compelled, pathetically, to plead that his sweet deal be removed from the final bill. Because that's how Ben Nelson rolls.

And the people cheered: "Twenty-Twelve. Twenty-Twelve. Twenty-Twelve."


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Earmark Earl

In recent weeks Sen. E. (Earl?  Earmark?) Benjamin Nelson has become quite defensive about his support for federal earmarks.  Every other member of Nebraska's congressional delegation--including his fellow Senator Mike Johanns--has announced his support for a ban on earmarks.  Sen. Johanns put it best:  the current earmark process is "simply not open, transparent or merit-based."

And where does Sen. Nelson--the architect of the Cornhusker Kickback--stand?  Firmly on the side of business-as-usual.

Nelson has attempted to portray his support for this antiquated form of political cronyism as fighting for Nebraska's share of the federal pie.  What Nelson doesn't tell us is that in order for him to get federal money for the National Wild Turkey Federation, he has to agree to support the pork submitted by other Senators, including bridges to nowhere.  And apparently he's more than happy to cut that deal. 

Let's decide the issue once and for all.  Potential Republican Senate candidate Attorney General Jon Bruning has come out firmly in opposition to earmarks, and I'm quite confident that every Republican candidate for Nebraska's Senate seat will as well.  The November 2012 election can be a referendum on the earmarks and backroom deals that have become the hallmark of Nelson's time in public office.

On November 6, 2012, Nebraska voters can decide whether they approve of the current federal earmark process and deals like the Cornhusker Kickback.  If they support business-as-usual, they should vote for Sen. Nelson.  If they oppose these practices and want more transparency and integrity in Congress, they should vote for the Republican nominee.