Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor Thursday, defending the deal she struck during the health care negotiations to send $300 million in additional Medicaid funding to Louisiana.
Because of the emergency federal aid that flowed into the state following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav, a federal formula showed the state as wealthier than it really was and drastically reduced the amount of funding it receives through the Medicaid formula. A fix to the formula was included in the health care bill just before the Senate vote, but the addition was blasted as a payoff for Landrieu's support and dubbed "the Louisiana purchase."
"I make no apologies for leading this effort," Landrieu said. "Nor do I back down an inch from the yearlong effort that we have undertaken."
Landrieu denied that the amendment came from a backroom deal, as press reports have characterized it. She pointed out that she, the Louisiana delegation, and Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal have been working on the issue in public for more than a year.
"The fact that this was secret is a lie," she said. "The fact that this wasn't supported by our delegation is also a lie."
She slammed other members of the Louisiana delegation who have not advocated for the measure publicly since Landrieu came under fire for it.
"Never, never in my life have I ever, or will I ever, throw the people of my state under a bus to save my reputation or my job," she said. "I know what I am inside. I don't need anyone to remind me of the goodness I have inside...I don't need this job badly enough -- maybe some people do, I don't -- to throw the people of my state under the bus to protect myself politically."
She also took what seemed to be a swipe at Jindal, who has spoken of Louisiana's Medicaid formula only once since the Senate health care vote and ensuing firestorm.
"Being in public office takes more than being intelligent, it takes more than a fancy resume, it takes guts," she said. "Some people have more of those than others."
Finally, Landrieu challenged any senator, Democrat or Republican, to go to the Senate floor to publicly voice their objections to the measure rather than criticize her in the press. "If they don't come, then I would hope they will keep their mouths shut about something they know nothing about."