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Louisiana Purchase, Part Deux

Unsurprisingly, President Obama has recently realized early legislative success in pursuit of his massive government-heavy health care program. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., pushed the initial legislation to the Senate giving our representatives very little time to review the bill in advance of the first vote opening up further debate.

In attempting to clear this initial procedural hurdle, Sen. Reid and the Obama administration could not find the support of a single Republican senator and were also having difficulty in rounding up even the necessary 60 votes, all of which would have to be Democrats, to advance the legislation.

Now, most taxpayers would hope that in pursuit of the 60 votes the administration and Senate Democrats would use the merits of the legislation as the basis for their swaying of members of their own party. Sadly, that simply is not the case.

Rather, bribes in the form of earmarks ended up being the carrot that lured in the final votes on a critical piece of legislation that may dramatically impact the future of our nation's health care and our nation's debt.

Take, for example, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, one of the last Senate holdouts who only joined her fellow Democrats hours before the controversial vote. What was it that drew Sen. Landrieu to vote in support of the legislation? Was it her comfort with the cost, or perhaps her satisfaction that the concerns of her constituents had been satisfied?

Sadly, the answer lies with a seemingly minor provision added to the health care legislation, which currently takes two pages to write up a description of which states would qualify for an influx of $100 million additional dollars in federal Medicaid subsidies, using phrases such as "certain states recovering from a major disaster." All two pages make it so that the only state which could qualify is Louisiana. Sen. Landrieu says the funds will total to $300 million ($100 million in disaster relief and $200 in Medicaid).

But if you thought the esteemed senator would feel the least bit ashamed of how her decision was made, think again. In her floor speech, after accusations that her vote was bought, Sen. Landrieu said: "I will correct something. It's not $100 million, it's $300 million, and I'm proud of it and will keep fighting for it."

But the waste and hidden vote purchases are not confined to Sen. Landrieu and the Democrats' 21st century Louisiana Purchase. A July piece by The Boston Globe uncovered a provision in both the Senate and House versions of the bill which would designate large sums of money (up to $1.6 billion each year in the House version) to improve the nation's "health infrastructure." The proposal will cover community grants for such things as bike paths, jungle gyms, sidewalks, lighting, farmer's markets, etc., as a "preventative" health measure.

Certainly preventative health care is a worthy topic for discussion, but is a "reform" of our health care system really the appropriate place to spend billions on children's playgrounds?

Earmarks and "pork" are not new in Washington politics. However, earmarks and pork required to get Democrats to support a Democratic-authored health care reform bill should tell us all we need to know -- that even internally, many Democrats recognize that Americans do not support their effort to further empower the federal government and drive up the national debt all in the name of faux "reform."

The time has come for Americans of every political persuasion to stand up and demand that our representatives seriously debate the ramifications of this health care legislation rather than trying to find ways to get compensated for their votes. Perhaps the clearest way to send that message is to send Sen. Landrieu packing. After all, in the actual Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson managed to purchase half the county for 20 times less than it took for Sen. Landrieu to give it all away!

Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation.