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Revealed: GOP senator who railed against healthcare and earmarks got $960,000 healthcare earmark

By John Byrne
Monday, November 15, 2010 10:24 EDT
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A GOP senator who voted against the Democrats’ sweeping health care bill quietly got a healthcare stimulus of his own: $960,000 doled out to the University of Nevada for a Primary Care Residency Expansion program.

What’s more, the senator, Republican John Ensign of Nevada, has also joined about a dozen Republican senators in a crusade to end earmarks in the federal budget.

The special dispensation for the University of Nevada was created via an earmark, a legislative maneuver that directs funds to be spent on a specific project.

So not only did the anti-healthcare senator get a special healthcare program funded in his state, he also got it through an earmark, a process he himself claims to oppose.

The news was first reported by the liberal blog ThinkProgress, which obtained a letter from Ensign to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius requesting funding for the residency program in his state.

According to The Hill, Ensign has joined Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) in DeMint’s proposal to ban earmarks.

“Ensign’s letter to HHS serves as a stark reminder that while Republicans have ludicrously smeared the health reform law with lies and demagoguery, in private they realize its benefits to their constituents,” ThinkProgress’ Lee Fang wrote. “Like every other GOP lawmaker, Ensign voted against the Affordable Care Act and like nearly every other GOP lawmaker, has pledged to repeal the entire law — including the grant program from which he requested money for his own state. Similarly, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has taken credit for Medicare improvements made possible by the Affordable Care Act, even though he too opposed the law. As the Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky has reported, Republican governors posturing as staunch opponents of health reform have quietly worked to quickly implement the law.”

“The GOP seems committed to playing politics with the nation’s health care crisis,” Fang adds. “The earmark debate, and the attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, are nothing more than political theater designed to distract from the reality that Republicans have proposed no substantial solutions to the nation’s most critical problems. There are tens of thousands of Americans dying because of lack of proper health insurance, and as Ensign’s letter shows, many states are already suffering from a broken, unregulated system of care. But rather than fix any serious problems, Ensign and his cohorts are focused solely on breaking Obama’s agenda so that he is a ‘a one-term president.’”

Besides the Democrats’ health care bill, Ensign has voted against other healthcare measures.

In June, Ensign joined the rest of his party in voting for a 21 percent pay cut for doctors who take Medicare patients. Ultimately, the pay cut was reversed under a temporary six-month extension.

Ensign has been in the news in the past year for a $96,000 payment made to the husband of an aide with whom he had an affair.

The Nevada Republican conducted an extramarital liaison with former aide Cynthia Hampton, and his parents ultimately paid thousands of dollars to allegedly pay off her cuckolded husband, Doug Hampton.

Some believe the money may have been a form of “structuring,” an illegal activity where transactions are reclassified to avoid reporting rules. While Ensign’s defenders say the payment to the Hamptons was a “gift,” federal prosecutors believe it may have been a severance payment to Ensign’s aide, in which case it broke the law surrounding reporting of severance payments.

With earlier reporting.

 
 
 
 
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