Politics & Government

S.C. senators applaud McMaster's move

U.S. senators Lindsey Graham, left, and Jim DeMint, both South Carolina Republicans
U.S. senators Lindsey Graham, left, and Jim DeMint, both South Carolina Republicans The State (Graham), AP (DeMint)

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint on Wednesday lauded S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster for rallying other state prosecutors to mount a possible legal challenge to the congressional health-care bill.

Senate Democratic leaders agreed to exempt Nebraska from $100 million in new Medicaid costs over the next decade in order to secure the support of U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.

If all 40 Senate Republicans oppose the health-care overhaul as anticipated in this morning's scheduledvote, Nelson would provide the 60th vote of support, giving Democrats enough votes to overcome a filibuster or other stalling procedures.

Graham and DeMint agreed with McMaster's claim it would be unconstitutional to give Nebraska preferential treatment under the health-care bill that would extend medical coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans.

"I would argue that the exemption of Nebraska was done in a way that violates the Constitution because it's a tax on 49 other states that's being levied, and we're paying Nebraska's share," Graham said. "It certainly doesn't pass the smell test."

The Senate on Wednesday defeated, by a 53-46 vote, a DeMint amendment to the health-care measure that would have prohibited "earmark vote trading."

Under that longtime practice, one senator backs another's bill in exchange for getting appropriations earmarked for a project.

McMaster, a Columbia Republican who is running for governor, said attorneys general in Pennsylvania and Utah had joined him in weighing a lawsuit, bringing to 10 the prosecutors who have joined the initiative.

McMaster acknowledged all 10 attorneys general protesting the health-care measure are Republicans, but said he has spoken with Democratic attorneys general and predicted several will join the group.

McMaster also conceded the states would not have legal standing to file suit until after the health-care bill gained final passage and was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said Tuesday he would try to boost South Carolina's federal Medicaid share to 95 percent from its current 91 percent.

Medicaid covers more than 700,000 poor South Carolinians, and the health-care bill could extend benefits to 300,000 more.

Clyburn said many federal programs give states disproportionate shares of aid, and South Carolina gets more money under some of them because it has a larger proportion of poor people.

DeMint, of Greenville, disagreed with Clyburn's reasoning.

"There's a distinction between a pre-set formula that is applied uniformly versus targeting a particular senator to by his vote by giving his state some kind of break," DeMint said.