Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Will the Democrats "Go It Alone" to Pass ObamaCare?

When you hear a someone from Washington talking about "going it alone" on the ObamaCare bill, what they're talking about is reconciliation. I'm not exactly sure I understand the term as it is used by Congress. I do know one thing: it sure as heck doesn't mean in Congress what it means in Webster's dictionary. Webster says "reconciliation" is: "the action of reconciling"; and "reconcile" means: "to restore to friendship or harmony." So here we go again with one of those Alice-in-Wonderland words used in Washington, a word used to mean exactly the opposite of its dictionary definition.

Wikipedia says (and I don't mindlessly trust Wikipedia, but it'a a place to start) that reconciliation is a legislative process intended to allow a contentious budget bill (hold that thought) to be considered without filibuster. Meaning, using reconciliation, the Senate can shove a marginally popular bill through Congress with only a simple majority of votes (51) rather than the 60 votes needed to keep the other side from filibustering. Confusing? Reconciliation allows the lower number of votes (51) to count as a passing vote without a filibuster challenge. Normally, to escape filibuster, the bill needs 60 votes. Clear as mud? I think it's meant to be.

Why does the issue of reconciliation matter? Public support for ObamaCare has been dropping like a hot rock. So now there's talk that if Congress can't pass their ObamaCare bill any other way, then they'll try to use this reconciliation voting trick to squeak the crap bill through. But wait a minute, you say. Wasn't reconciliation a strategy set up to be used for budget bills? That's exactly right, "Straight up," as my good friend Janeane Garafalo would say. Evidently, though, for the purposes of avoiding discussion, amendments from Republicans, and a filibuster, and for shoving an unpopular bill through the Senate, the term "budget bills" can pretty much be anything the Democrat side wants it to mean. So now we can clearly see that "reconciliation" is actually the opposite of "restoring friendship and harmony," and that brings us back to Congress's Alice in Wonderland world again.

Which also brings to mind Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nevada), who has said he would "leave nothing off the table," including reconciliation, in his zeal to back up "his" President's premier issue. However, it would seem that Reid's colleagues on both sides of the aisle aren't too thrilled with the idea of using reconciliation to pass the health care bill. So concerned were they about the legislative scheme being used, not only on health care legislation, but also on cap and trade, Senators Robert Byrd (D, West Virginia) and Mike Johnanns (R, Nebraska) sent a letter to Majority Leader Reid which read, in part:

"Legislation so far-reaching should be fully vetted and given appropriate time for debate, something the budget reconciliation process does not allow. Using this procedure would circumvent normal Senate practice and would be inconsistent with the Obama administration's stated goals of bipartisanship, cooperation, and openness."

Another Senator, Judd Gregg (R, New Hampshire), had this to say about using reconciliation to shove the health care bill through the Senate: "When you are taking the entire health system of the United States, restructuring it, changing it fundamentally, moving it to the left significantly, basically nationalizing it for all intents and purposes ... without any opportunity for changes on the floor of the Senate, well, you might as well not have a Senate. You might as well just have a House of Representatives. It totally undermines the purposes of the two branches of government." Gosh, why have a Senate or a House of Representatives? Why not just let King Barack I tell the country what's what. After all, as he would remind everyone, "I won."

If Harry Reid gets his way and manages to use reconciliation to shove this ObamaCare bill down the country's collective throat, can anything be done by his Senate opponents to stop him? A suggestion has been made that if Reid goes the reconciliation route, there will be repercussions. For one, Senate Republicans can use parliamentary procedure to shut down the Senate for the next year. Senators traditionally give each other the courtesy of unanimous consent on tasks such as bill-reading, for example, to allow business to proceed at a normal pace. If Democrats try to force ObamaCare through by reconciliation, unanimous consent will evaporate; a single objection will be all it will take to wipe out unanimous consent, slowing down anything the Harry Reid Senate wants to get done.

That's what the Republicans might do. How about the moderate Democrats? What Harry Reid risks if he goes ahead with what some have called the "nuclear option" is a split within his own Democrat ranks, further dividing the "Blue Dog" moderates from the rest of the party. It was the Blue Dogs who slowed down the legislation in July; Harry Reid's frantic antics in favor of passing ObamaCare could conceivably force the Blue Dogs to dig in their heels and throw the bill out altogether.

Then there's that pesky public--you know, those "citizen mobs" who have been causing legislators such trouble during their August recess. How will they react if the ObamaCare bill is "finessed" through Congress on a 51% vote without input from those who oppose it? I've been to four events where We the People have been expressing our anger over the current health care fiasco. My take on it is this: health care is a symptom, not a cause, of people's anger at government. It seems to me they are mostly angry at the effete snob attitude of legislators who no longer listen to their constituents, who have forgotten that they work for us. I predict that if Harry Reid & Co. try to "go it alone" on a health care bill, they will set off a firestorm of grassroots anger in this country the likes of which hasn't been seen since about 1775.

1 comment:

Labwriter said...

An addendum: The Democrats in the House led by "It's good to be Queen" Nancy Pelosi have cut Republicans out of the process of crafting the health care bill from the very beginning--so in that sense, Pelosi and the House have been "going it alone" all along. They have the votes to jam a health care bill through the House, and they undoubtedly will. Pelosi could murder cute little kittens and post it on YouTube, and her constituents would still send her back to Washington. The woman is untouchable, she can do whatever she wants.