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Price of Ben Nelson's vote: City guy Chuck Schumer hunts

December 23, 2009 |  7:49 am

Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York goes hunting for votes and pheasants with Ben Nelson of Nebraska

No doubt you've heard about what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had to pay to win Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson's vote on the healthcare bill. It was an exemption from Nebraska's share of Medicaid expansion, amounting to about $100 million over the next 10 years. As columnist Michael Gerson noted, "Sometimes there is a fine ethical line between legislative maneuvering and bribery."

Now comes word that the real price of Nelson's vote was a hunting trip to Nebraska by a New York city guy who is more comfortable with street vendors and cab drivers than gun-toting hunters. Democrat Chuck Schumer, the vote-counter on Reid's leadership team, made the trek last month.

According to Politico, the senator from Brooklyn woke up early the morning of Nov. 8, put on a blaze-orange hunting vest and hat, got a crash course in gun safety and immediately bonded with the retrievers and pointers that accompanied his hunting team.

“They were just amazing,” he said. “I always thought hunting dogs were just for companionship.”

His first shot was ineffective. Nelson pointed out that Schumer still had his safety on. Eventually, Schumer bagged three pheasants, though the New Yorker said of his hunting companions, "I was never 100% sure they weren’t helping me.”

To a political world still buzzing over Nelson's backroom Medicaid deal -- audacious even by Washington standards -- Schumer's hunting exploits were another stunner.

Tom King, president of the New York Rifle and Pistol Assn., calling Schumer "patently anti-gun," remarked, “He just must have needed Nelson's vote very badly to do that."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo credit: Ben Nelson's office

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