Video: Health care vote expected Christmas Eve

  1. Closed captioning of: Health care vote expected Christmas Eve

    >>> of tempers in the process.

    >>> now the other big-ticket items in the countdown to christmas , that's health care . democrats today sped up the time table for a final vote on their bill so they can get home for the holiday. between now and then, there are going to be some epic battles over pretty big deal -breakers that are going to matter to every american when they try to go to the doctor. our own kelly o'donnell track every twist and turn of all this from capitol hill tonight. kelly , good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian . i guess we can say there is a sign that the ice here is thawing, at least for the holiday. the big finale senate vote was expected nighttime christmas eve , but a deal worked out between republicans and democrats will move that to morning, letting everybody get out of here sooner than expected. senators turned up before 7:00 this morning, and for much of this day, any mention of christmas was just another jab at the other side.

    >> ' twas the night before christmas and all through the senate , the right held up our health care bill no matter what was in it.

    >> two days before christmas , three days before christmas , we want to stop this bill and do it right.

    >> reporter: republicans don't have enough votes to stop it. they have strategically used senate rules to keep debate going until the 24th. not since 1963 has the senate been in session on crimes eve. and now the president says the first family's hawaii trip is on hold until after senate democrats get their bill passed.

    >> least i can do is be around and provide encouragement and last-minute help where necessary.

    >> reporter: before the president sees a health care bill reach his desk, house and senate must figure out how to combine their competing versions. take the public option. the house wants an optional government-run health insurance plan. the senate does not, preferring instead a new selection of private plans organized by the government. on taxes. the house would add a 5.4% surtax on income above $500,000. the senate would add a 40% tax on insurance plans that cost more than $8,500 a year. on abortion. in the house, no insurance plan set up under the federal program could cover abortion. the senate could have similar restrictions, but women in the federal insurance plan could buy abortion coverage paying for that themselves.

    >> we are focused on one thing and one thing only. that is passing this bill.

    >> reporter: so the surprise deal means an 8:00 a.m . vote christmas eve day. another surprise today, brian , a party switch . an alabama democrat member of congress decided to become a republican today. parker griffith blames the health care fight, so he switched. he says that the health care debate made him make this change, but democrats still hold on to a big majority in the house. brian .

    >> kelly 0 o'donnell on the hill for us tonight. thanks.

    >>> all of this brings us

updated 12/22/2009 9:27:25 PM ET 2009-12-23T02:27:25

The top prosecutors in seven states are probing the constitutionality of a political deal that cut a funding break for Nebraska in order to pass a federal health care reform bill, South Carolina's attorney general said Tuesday.

Attorney General Henry McMaster said he and his counterparts in Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, North Dakota, Texas and Washington state — all Republicans — are jointly taking a look at the deal they've dubbed the "Nebraska compromise."

"The Nebraska compromise, which permanently exempts Nebraska from paying Medicaid costs that Texas and all other 49 states must pay, may violate the United States Constitution — as well as other provisions of federal law," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.

McMaster's move comes at the request of Republican U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

‘We have serious concerns’
In a letter to McMaster, Graham singled out the deal to win Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson's vote on the massive health care bill the Senate is expected to adopt Thursday. Nelson held out as fellow Democrats worked to get 60 votes to foreclose a GOP filibuster and the bill was amended to shield Nebraska from the expected $45 million annual cost tied to expanding Medicaid programs.

"We have serious concerns about the constitutionality of this Nebraska compromise as it results in special treatment for only one state in the nation at the expense of the other 49," Graham and DeMint wrote.

Nebraska wasn't alone in getting Medicaid breaks. Vermont, Louisiana and Massachusetts also got help with their programs.

Along with Texas, officials in Washington, Alabama, Colorado and Michigan confirmed they were working with McMaster.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he wasn't sure what could be done while the federal legislation remained under debate. Officials in the other states did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Tennessee's Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey called for his state's attorney general to investigate the deal.

Ramsey, McMaster and Michigan's Mike Cox are running for governor in their states.

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"Whether in the court of law or in the court of public opinion, we must bring an end to this culture of corruption," McMaster said. The negotiations "on their face appear to be a form of vote buying paid for by taxpayers," he said.

Video: Health care reform will be an Obama victory

‘We'll assist anyone’
McMaster is encouraging a South Carolina citizen to step forward to sue to challenge the measure if it is signed into law. "We'll assist anyone to the extent that we're able," McMaster said.

Also Tuesday, U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said Republicans need to stop complaining about deals their colleagues made.

"Rather than sitting here and carping about what Nelson got for Nebraska, I would say to my friends on the other side of the aisle: Let's get together and see what we can get for South Carolina," Clyburn said.

For instance, Clyburn expects states will get more help covering Medicaid expansion costs. Critics say the federal government's coverage of 91 percent of those future costs will disappear, leaving states with huge holes in their budgets. Clyburn says the legislation the federal share should be 95 percent, with states picking up no more than 5 percent.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said the federal legislation is "well intended," but called it "fundamentally flawed in the same way the stimulus efforts were in that the states and the taxpayers are left footing the bill."

Sanford this spring was the nation's only governor to take a state legislature to federal and state court to block federal stimulus money.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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