WASHINGTON (AP) - A Republican senator who has opposed President Barack Obama's health overhaul effort said Tuesday that the deals Democratic leaders have cut to round up the votes they need to push the measure through the Senate have been "sleazy."
Speaking Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina cited concessions won by Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, whose support gave Democrats the 60th and final vote they need. Among other things, Nelson won an agreement that the federal government will pay to expand Medicaid services in Nebraska.
Said Graham: "That's not change you can believe in. That's sleazy."
Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa defended the concessions, saying: "The one that's being talked about for Nebraska, it also benefits other states. It's not just Nebraska."
He also said he would vote for the package even if it didn't contain concessions for Iowa. "The principle of this bill overrides everything," Harkin told CBS' "Early Show."
Graham rejected criticism leveled by some Democrats that GOP opposition to Obama's health care effort is being driven by extremists.
"I'm not a member of a militia, I'm not a birther," he said, referring to those who have questioned, inaccurately, whether Obama is an American citizen. "I'm a senator who wants to reform health care, but I'm not going to allow my country to become a socialized nation when it comes to health care."
Harkin described the debate as "a demarcation line."
He explained: "On one side is health care as a privilege. On the other side is health care as a right. With these votes, with the vote that we'll take before Christmas, we will cross that line finally and say that health care is a right of all Americans."
The Senate had procedural votes Tuesday morning on the overhaul bill and Democrats are pushing for final passage before Christmas.