Buchanan jumps into health care legislation fray

WASHINGTON — As House Democrats readied a health care fix to send to President Barack Obama, Rep. Vern Buchanan on Thursday unveiled legislation he says would strip out what he called “unseemly spending” in the overall health care bill.

The Sarasota Republican is targeting some of the same provisions challenged this week on the Senate floor by Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, whose amendments were rebuffed by Senate Democrats.

Buchanan’s bill has 22 co-sponsors, but faces daunting challenges in the Democratic-led House, which has celebrated the passing of the health care bill and its signing into law. But Buchanan charged that the bill and its fix are loaded with “sweetheart deals’’ to convince senators to vote for them.

“This ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ mentality is offensive to the American people, and rightly so,’’ Buchanan said. “If legislation cannot pass on its own merits but needs to be sweetened with taxpayer boondoggles costing hundreds of millions of dollars, then something is grossly wrong with the process.’’

Buchanan’s targets include measures that provide for additional Medicaid funding for hospitals in Hawaii and Tennessee, as well as Medicare funding for hospitals in Michigan and Connecticut. He also singled out a proposal that provides $100 million for a Connecticut hospital.

Buchanan has also named the so-called Louisiana Purchase, which earmarked $300 million in Medicaid dollars to the state. After McCain this week assailed the Louisiana deal, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., defended it in an impassioned floor speech, saying it was “not done to buy my vote.

“My vote was given to this bill because this bill deserves it, because it’s a very good piece of legislation,’’ she said. “And I told the leader I would vote for it whether this was in it or not.’’

Democrats countered Buchanan’s bill with a press release titled “False Republican Claims of Special Deals.’’ They said the Louisiana provision is not specific to that state, and is aimed at preventing states from losing federal Medicaid funds when they are hit by natural disasters.

Likewise, they said the Connecticut measure is not specific to that state and that 12 states would be eligible to apply for a competitive grant for money to aid in the construction of a hospital.