To scrape together the 60 votes he needs for health care reform, the skinny, pale Harry Reid morphed into an unlikely Santa, giving away goodies to such colleagues as Joe Lieberman (okay, so Reid was Hanukkah Harry in Joe's case), Ben Nelson ("full and permanent federal funding for his state to extend Medicaid eligibility," likened by one Republican senator as a winning hand in The Price is Right,), and Mary Landrieu, reaping $300 million in Medicaid funds for Louisiana -- dubbed "the Louisiana Purchase" -- by threatening to withhold her vote.
So last Monday, my very own appointed senator from Illinois, Roland Burris, took the floor in the Senate and dropped the name of Mohandas Gandhi in repeating why he will vote no on the bill unless the public option is restored. "As ... Gandhi once famously said, 'All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender.'" (Burris first made the threat last October but few noticed.) He was awfully quiet on Saturday when President Obama and Harry Reid were proclaiming they had the 60 votes. (If Burris meant what he said, they had only 59.) He voted yes on that Monday 1 a.m. procedural vote, one of five that will precede the final Christmas Eve vote.
Does that signal that our embarrassment of a junior senator was offered something? In an earlier post, I suggested that to keep Burris on board, he could be promised that when his term is up in January 2011, an ambassadorship to a fun country or even a cabinet secretary's post would await him.
But hold on a minute! These other senators, as far as we know, weren't bargaining away health-care benefits to line their own pockets and perk up their own resumes. They were demanding benefits, worth many millions, for their states. Illinois, arguably among the most corrupt states in the union -- our governors tend to go to prison -- is teetering as close to insolvency as any senator's state.
Memo to Senator Burris: When you add U.S. Senator to your infamous tombstone, it'll resonate more if in the one year you have left in Washington, you could think beyond your own interests, and bring some bacon home to Illinois. Memo to Senator Burris: There are four procedural votes to go before the biggie on Christmas Eve.