To overcome a Republican filibuster on healthcare reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) struck a final deal over the weekend with centrist Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) to limit funding for abortion and ease some of the burdens on his state imposed by the bill. The abortion language drew rebukes from both sides, yet Nelson's efforts to win special treatment for Nebraska and one of its health insurance companies prompted even sharper attacks. The critics included Nebraska Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, who said, "There should be no special deals, no carve-outs for anyone in this healthcare bill; not for states, not for insurance companies, not for individual senators."
Johanns is right on principle, but he doesn't have precedent on his side. Lawmakers routinely plead for favors for their home state. Their costs are high, their weather is bad, their constituents are hard-pressed -- the rationales go on and on. The more congressional leaders need their votes, the more likely the requests are to be granted. And thanks to the united opposition from Republicans, Reid needed the support of all 58 Democrats and both independents in the Senate to push the healthcare bill through. He wound up striking deals with multiple senators on an array of their favorite healthcare causes.