Edmondson boosts efforts to change health bill in conference committee

D.C. — Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson last week became the
first Democrat to call for removal of the controversial “Cornhusker
Working with South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster,
leader of the group of 13 Republican state attorneys general who
launched the crusade just before Christmas, Edmondson was co-author of
a memo from the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) which
went to all state chief legal officers last week.
Members of the U.S. House returned to work this week, while Senators
get back to the nation’s capitol next week. Conference committee work
on the controversial provision could begin soon. The language inserted
in the bill by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat,
promised that only Nebraska would escape increased costs for Medicaid. 
The provision is widely believed to have been designed to assure the
support of Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson for the bill.
In an interview with CapitolBeatOK on Wednesday, McMaster said, “The communication with Drew
began when someone in my office called him. He returned the call and
eventually we talked. He said he would sign on” to a Dec. 30 letter
assailing the Nebraska language. McMaster said, “Drew wanted the words
‘constitutionally flawed’ in the original letter changed to
‘constitutionally suspect.’" McMaster immediately agreed.
McMaster said that such word changes were not unusual in the project.
“Nearly everyone had something to offer. Edmondson’s change was a
change in tone not in substance. He made it clear he was very
supportive of this. Once we had Drew with us we could approach other
members of the National Association of Attorneys Generals, because to
put out a communication from NAAG you must have one member of each
McMaster said, “The letter at this point deals only with the Cornhusker Kickback,
and that is the focus of the effort to increase the number of
signatories through the joint memo I wrote with Attorney General
Edmondson. We did that and set a deadline for response of Jan. 8. We
don’t yet have answers from anyone new except the Attorney General of
American Samoa." Despite the lapsed deadline, McMaster said the effort
would continue and that the group of attorneys general were open to new
These states are now represented in the call to remove Nebraska’s
special provision: South Carolina, Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho,
Michigan, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia,
Utha, Washington, Oklahoma and American Samoa.
The full text of the joint letter circulating for additional signatures
(albeit with the earlier “flawed” wording retained) is available at the
Attorney General McMaster’s state website.

About the author: Pat McGuigan is capitol editor for Tulsa Today. He runs CapitolBeatOK from the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, OK.