GOP Howls at Health Care Sweetheart Deals


As Democrats drill down on the final undecideds, Republicans are drilling down on anything that smells like a special deal for that special someone. Republicans have likened it to a game show.

Today, Republicans found what they think is a goody aimed at fence-sitting Democrat Harry Teague (D-N.M.) who faces a hair-splitting re-election campaign. They say a physician-owned hospital in his district will get special benefits.

There's $100 million in Medicaid money for Tennessee. The office of Congressman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) says that has nothing to do with his announcement that he's switching to a "yes" vote.

And there are some suggestive sudden overtures on Capitol Hill: an increase in coveted federal water allotments in the districts of Congressmen Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.) were announced this week. Republicans say that usually happens later in the month.

And a bill sponsored by Cardoza and Costa that was languishing is now moving forward in the House. Costa, a fence-sitter, says any notion he's traded his vote is "completely false."

Remember those sweetheart deals stuffed in the Senate bill last December criticized by President Obama? Some of those are alive and well, reports CBS News Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

"Some of the sweetheart deals are still in this bill, like the Louisiana Purchase," says Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The "Louisiana Purchase" is $300 million dished out to Louisiana just for Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu's yes vote. Other states can qualify, too.

A $1 billion research subsidy for drug companies will be greatly beneficial to the biotech industry, particularly in New Jersey, but Sen. Bob Menendez's office told us other states will be benefiting from the same provision.

And Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut still gets $100 million for a local hospital. Democrats say the provision is not exclusive to Connecticut.

One thing that's out is the "Cornhusker Kickback." Nebraska didn't want to get tainted with getting special favors, $100 million in Medicaid funds. Instead, all states will get more.

Some things that look like a deal may be nothing more than coincidence, and there's often arm-twisting and deal-cutting on legislation, reports Attkisson. But this is arguably the most attention those backroom bargains have ever gotten.

Editor's Note: An earlier transcript alluded to Sen. Menendez's reelection; his term actually expires in 2012.

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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.