What's $100 million of taxpayer money between a few U.S. Senators?
After reports surfaced of $100 million for Louisiana was added to the Senate's health care reform legislation, originally from ABC News, and subsequently commented upon by prominent lefties, like U.S. News and World Report's Bonnie Erbe as my colleague Noel Sheppard pointed out, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., took the Senate floor on Nov. 21 to announce she would vote in favor to proceed forward with the Senate Democratic leadership's bill.
She also responded to allegations that $100 million earmarked for the Louisiana was added to that legislation to sway her vote. She referred to the likes of ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl and Erbe as "very partisan Republican bloggers."
"I know that might time is up, but I would like to ask personal privilege for just one more minute to address an issue that has come up unfortunately in the last 24 hours by some very partisan Republican bloggers so I need to respond I think and will do so now," Landrieu said. "One of the provisions in the framework of this bill that I've just decided to move on to debate has to do with fixing a very difficult situation that Louisiana is facing and any other state that might have a catastrophic disaster - let's hope they don't - like we did in 2005."
But Landrieu's assertion that "any other state" would be eligible isn't completely honest, as Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer pointed out on Fox News Nov. 20.
"If you look at the sections, it is 2006 in which the Louisiana money, it looks as if it is provision for all states which have had a proclamation of a disaster area in the last seven years, and then the fine print inside eliminates all the others except Louisiana," Krauthammer said.
Still, Landrieu elaborated on how federal aid in wake of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina disrupted the state's economy and this $100 million was deserved.
"In 2005, Louisiana experienced two of the worst natural disasters in recent memory and in an effort to aid the recovery, Congress stepped in with a massive aid package for Louisianans. Thank you, that infused grant dollars in direct assistance. Some of these one-time recovery dollars, in addition to the increased economic activity, were calculated into our state's per capita income. The result Madame Chair has been that Louisiana's per capita income ... was abnormally inflated. You can understand that. There were billions of dollars that came in from insurance, and from road, home and community development block grants. In addition, labor and wage costs went up because there was a constriction in the market which any economist could tell you always happens after a natural disaster."
Based on that logic, a fix was needed according Landrieu to counter this artificial government-created wage inflation. But she claimed that aid was not just $100 million, but an astounding $300 million (emphasis added).
"And as a result, when we did the calculations, under the law, it made us seem as if we were Connecticut and not Louisiana, like we had sometime overnight become rich," Landrieu continued. "That is not the case, Madame President. Our state is still as poor as it was, if not poorer. I am not going to be defensive about asking for help in this situation and it is not a $100 million fix, it is a $300 million fix."
But, she denied that $100 million provision was the reason she had decided to vote in favor of cloture.
"I'm proud to have asked for it," Landrieu said. "I'm proud to have fought for it and I will continue to. That is not the reason I am moving to debate. The reason I am moving to the debate, as expressed - in this statement and in hundreds of statements and speeches I've given over the last year or two on this subject, which should be self-explanatory."