Edmondson boosts efforts to change health bill in conference committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson last week became the first Democrat to call for removal of the controversial “Cornhusker Kickback.” Working with South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, leader of the group of 13 Republican state attorneys general who launched the crusade just before Christmas, Edmondson was co-author of a memo from the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) which went to all state chief legal officers last week.
Members of the U.S. House returned to work this week, while Senators get back to the nation’s capitol next week. Conference committee work on the controversial provision could begin soon. The language inserted in the bill by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, promised that only Nebraska would escape increased costs for Medicaid. The provision is widely believed to have been designed to assure the support of Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson for the bill.
In an interview with CapitolBeatOK on Wednesday, McMaster said, “The communication with Drew began when someone in my office called him. He returned the call and eventually we talked. He said he would sign on” to a Dec. 30 letter assailing the Nebraska language. McMaster said, “Drew wanted the words ‘constitutionally flawed’ in the original letter changed to ‘constitutionally suspect.’” McMaster immediately agreed.
McMaster said that such word changes were not unusual in the project. “Nearly everyone had something to offer. Edmondson’s change was a change in tone not in substance. He made it clear he was very supportive of this. Once we had Drew with us we could approach other members of the National Association of Attorneys Generals, because to put out a communication from NAAG you must have one member of each party.”
McMaster said, “The letter at this point deals only with the Cornhusker Kickback, and that is the focus of the effort to increase the number of signatories through the joint memo I wrote with Attorney General Edmondson. We did that and set a deadline for response of Jan. 8. We don’t yet have answers from anyone new except the Attorney General of American Samoa.” Despite the lapsed deadline, McMaster said the effort would continue and that the group of attorneys general were open to new signatories.
These states are now represented in the call to remove Nebraska’s special provision: South Carolina, Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Utha, Washington, Oklahoma and American Samoa.
The full text of the joint letter circulating for additional signatures (albeit with the earlier “flawed” wording retained) is available at the Attorney General McMaster’s state website.