With Barack Obama’s declaration, “Damn the American people! Full speed ahead!” the US Congress is perverting a parliamentary process that was designed only for budgetary issues that could reduce the deficit. Instead, he and Nancy Pelosi are using it to pass their massive new health care entitlement program because they can’t pass it any other way. As the The Wall Street Journal writes in its must read editorial out today it is a shocking abuse of power:
A string of electoral defeats and the great unpopularity of ObamaCare can’t stop Democrats from their self-appointed rendezvous with liberal destiny–ramming a bill through Congress on a narrow partisan vote. What we are about to witness is an extraordinary abuse of traditional Senate rules to pass a bill merely because they think it’s good for the rest of us, and because they fear their chance to build a European welfare state may never come again.
The vehicle is “reconciliation,” a parliamentary process that fast-tracks budget measures and was created in 1974 as a deficit-reduction tool. Limited to 20 hours of debate, reconciliation bills need a mere 50 votes in the Senate, with the Vice President as tie-breaker, thus circumventing the filibuster. Both Democrats and Republicans have frequently used reconciliation on budget bills, so Democrats are now claiming that using it to pass ObamaCare is no big deal.
Yet this shortcut has never been used for anything approaching the enormity of a national health-care entitlement. Democrats are only resorting to it now because their plan is in so much political trouble–within their own party, and even more among the general public–and because they’ve failed to make their case through persuasion.
“They know that this will take courage,” Nancy Pelosi said in an interview over the weekend, speaking of the Members she’ll try to strong-arm. “It took courage to pass Social Security. It took courage to pass Medicare,” the Speaker continued. “But the American people need it, why are we here? We’re not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress.”
Leave aside the irony of invoking “the American people” on behalf of a bill that consistently has been 10 to 15 points underwater in every poll since the fall, and is getting more unpopular by the day, particularly among independents. As Maine Republican Olympia Snowe pointed out in a speech last December, Social Security passed when Democrats controlled both Congress and the White House, yet 64% of Senate Republicans and 79% of the House GOP voted for it. More than half of the Senate Republican caucus voted for Medicare in 1965. Historically, major social legislation has always been bipartisan, because it reflects a durable political consensus.
There’s a lot more at the article, which I highly recommend you read.
I’m not sure which is more outrageous, that Obama and Pelosi are brazenly abusing this procedure in order to satisfy their engorged and pulsing egos, or that Pelosi is still insisting that passing ObamaCare is what the American people really want – they just don’t know it. Either way, what Obama and Pelosi are engaging in is a shocking violation of their roles as elected representatives and the American people’s trust. All the polls have shown that the American people’s hostility to Obama and Pelosi’s health care reforms is growing stronger by the day. But they won’t listen. They are so confident that the American people will love their health care reforms that they are forcing their bill through, even though the American people for months on end have screamed “NO!”