Justice accuses Sen. Reid of bribery for ‘Cornhusker Kickback’ in original healthcare legislation
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia drew laughter during oral arguments Wednesday when he implied that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had bribed a colleague to ensure the passage of the healthcare overhaul.
Scalia, one of the high court’s most conservative members, referenced a deal between Reid and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), which was in an initial draft of the healthcare package and gave Nebraska $100 million in special Medicaid assistance in exchange for Nelson’s vote.
The provision was derided by Republicans and had become known as the “Cornhusker Kickback” by mid-March 2010, when drafts revealed it was no longer in the bill.
Scalia used the phrase Wednesday to impugn Nelson under what he described as the Constitution’s prohibition of “venality,” or susceptibility to bribes, and to question whether the entire healthcare law would become null without its central provision — the individual mandate to buy health insurance.
“[I]f we struck down nothing in this legislation but the … ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ OK? We find that to violate the constitutional proscription of venality, OK?” Scalia said, eliciting chuckles from the audience.
“When we strike [the ‘Cornhusker Kickback’] down, it’s clear that Congress would not have passed [the bill] without that. It was the means of getting the last necessary vote in the Senate.
“And you are telling us that the whole statute would fall because the ‘Cornhusker Kickback’ is bad? That can’t be right,” he said.
Paul Clement, an attorney arguing against the healthcare law, answered that the law could indeed fall in that case because “it’s congressional intent that governs.”
Scalia calls reading Obamacare ‘cruel and unusual’
Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia humorously invoked the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids cruel and unusual punishments, when discussing the Obamacare legislation during oral argument today at the Supreme Court.
JUSTICE SCALIA: Mr. Kneedler, what happened to the Eighth Amendment? You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages?
JUSTICE SCALIA: And do you really expect the Court to do that? Or do you expect us to — to give this function to our law clerks?
Is this not totally unrealistic? That we are going to go through this enormous bill item by item and decide each one?
MR. KNEEDLER: Well –
Poll: Bruning ‘Strong Favorite’ Against Kerrey in Nebraska Senate Race
A new poll from PPP shows Nebraska attorney general Jon Bruning, a Republican, as a clear favorite to replace retiring Democrat senator Ben Nelson in November. Former Democratic senator Bob Kerrey, who is returning to Nebraska to run for his old seat, actually performs worse against Bruning and the other GOP candidates than Nelson would have. Here’s more from PPP’s Tom Jensen:
Kerrey trails the top 3 Republican contenders by double digits. He’s down 17 to Jon Bruning at 54-37, 14 to Don Stenberg at 52-38, and 10 to Deb Fischer at 48-38. In PPP’s last poll before he announced his retirement Ben Nelson trailed Bruning by only 4, Stenberg by 3, and actually led Fischer by 2. This does not appear to be one of those instances where a retirement left the party better off.
PPP also finds that Bruning is pulling away from his primary opponents, leading former attorney general and current treasurer Don Stenberg by 28 percentage points, 46 percent to 18 percent.
This is the second major poll in recent weeks to find Kerrey in deep trouble. Perhaps Kerrey recent campaign ads that push to remind voters there that he’s “coming home” to Nebraska (after having spent the last decade in New York following his term in the Senate) can move these numbers. Kerrey’s problem is that Nebraska is much more Republican now than it was when the state last elected Kerrey to the Senate in 1994.