(Tom A. Schatz/Citizens Against Government Waste) – The results are in! Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is the “winner” of CAGW’s online poll for 2010 Porker of the Year. With 33 percent of the vote, Sen. Nelson finished first in a competitive field of six nominees.
Sen. Nelson edged out his closest “porky” rival for this dubious honor, Sen. Thad Cochran, who received 27 percent of the vote, as a result of widespread public outrage over what came to be known as the “Cornhusker Kickback.” During the debate over the Senate version of the healthcare bill, Sen. Nelson parlayed his pivotal 60th vote for cloture to secure, among other perks, a permanent exemption for Nebraska to the Medicaid expansion in the Senate bill. Had the Senate bill become law, this carve-out would have saved Nebraska between $59 million and $281 million and ultimately opened the door for all of the states to have the federal government cover their Medicaid costs, at an astronomical price to federal taxpayers.
In the aftermath of the Cornhusker Kickback in January, 2010, Sen. Nelson’s job approval rating plummeted to 42 percent, from a high of 73 percent, the best of any senator, in April, 2006. The senator scrambled to make excuses, claiming that he had been under pressure from Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) to negotiate the deal. However, Gov. Heineman denied that assertion, saying “Under no circumstances did I have anything to do with Sen. Nelson’s compromise…The responsibility for this special deal lies solely on the shoulders of Sen. Ben Nelson.”
The other 2010 Porker of the Year nominees, in order of votes received, were: Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) (15 percent), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D.-Fla.) (11 percent), FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski (8 percent), and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) (3 percent). Topping the list of write-in candidates for the second year in a row and tying Rep. Rogers with 3 percent of the vote was President Barack Obama.