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Posted by on Mar 18, 2010 in Politics | 23 comments

Deem and pass, health care, and the failure of leadership

With the release of the CBO’s preliminary report, the stage is set for the House to move on its health care reform bill by Sunday. The failure of a Republican resolution to block the Slaughter Strategy means that the “deem and pass” method of enacting legislation remains strongly on the table. And some early “yes” vote announcements have many giddily predicting victory this weekend.

What would that victory look like? Well, it would obviously result in a bill being passed through the House by whatever means necessary, and the Senate bill would be able to be signed into law while the reconciliation fix is pending. It gets murkier after that, but Democrats could simply stop at that point and have the health care reform bill they’ve so desperately sought for the past fourteen months.

Never mind, of course, that the American public isn’t clamoring for this bill – quite the opposite, in fact. True, Americans want reform in general, and certain aspects poll well, but for the whole enchilada, pick your poll – Pew, Gallup, Rasmussen, Fox – all of them show heavy opposition and weak support for the current health care bill with only the margin of opposition to support in question. A CNN poll just a few weeks ago noted that some 65% wanted Congress to scrap everything altogether.

In addition, the people of Massachusetts elected a man in Scott Brown who campaigned specifically on being the 41st vote against the current version of health care, and the bluest of the blue states sent a Republican to Washington. Health care wasn’t the only factor in his victory, but to deny it played any factor at all flirts with the denial of reality.

The response to all of this has been a resounding … “So what?” The thinking, you see, is that the American people are either too stupid, too partisan, or too easily misled by those evil Republicans to recognize what a stellar bill Congress has before it. History is on the verge of being made, you see, so we can’t be bothered with what the poor saps in flyover country think. Most of the successive moves have been billed as circumventing the GOP, but since they’re in no position to stop it by themselves, they’re really methods of getting around popular opinion.

If this was such a great bill – or even if it was just a good bill – we wouldn’t see Washington in the state we see it today. We’d see a unified Democrat caucus with moderate Republicans like Graham, Collins, and Snowe itching at the chance to sign on to such a historic piece of legislation.

Instead, one can’t help but wonder how bad the bill must be if the President has to lean on Democrats to vote for it. Or why it takes special deals like the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, Gator-Aid, or others to sweeten the pot for hesitant legislators. Or why a bill so beneficial and necessary must be herded through by arcane methods reserved for far less important legislative matters.

That brings us to “deem and pass.” Yes, it’s been used before, and yes, the Republicans themselves used it. Pelosi, Reid, and Slaughter all opposed it at the time, but never mind that. Was it used for Social Security reform, for education reform, for dissolving the IRS, for any fundamental change to our governmental system or our way of life? They used it to raise the debt ceiling, a legislative act so heinous that Democrats did it themselves just a few weeks ago.

Technically, deem and pass is a viable option – but to use it on such a massive and transformational piece of legislation is an admission of the lack of a mandate to enact it through normal means, as is the use of reconciliation. Democrats may use the method to get around thorny issues, but doing so on such a high-profile bill forever changes the game in Washington. When the majority changes hands, as it inevitably will, the precedent will have been set to use arcane methods like these to enact sweeping change, inviting a race to the bottom and setting us on an unstable legislative teeter-totter.

But beyond that, squeaking the bill through on technicalities alienates more than one half of the country and destroys any chance of bringing the country together for the forseeable future. “Good riddance,” some will say, “those fools just don’t know what’s good for them.” Fine enough, but that’s not the kind of government we were promised when Pelosi took the gavel in 2006 and when Obama took the White House in 2008. The agenda of one side will be realized, but at the expense of bridging the gap between red and blue.

It didn’t have to be this way. Leaders and statesmen would have started from a mutual base of agreement, and under good stewardship, a unified Democrat party could have been able to sway enough Republicans to form a broad bloc of approval that would have made all of this chicanery unnecessary. With smaller and more focused bills, both parties could have chipped away at the problem of health care in a far more constructive manner.

Instead, flush with victory and the fleeting illusion of a Mandate from Heaven, the House shut the Republicans out and the Senate scrapped the one bill that gained a Republican vote to draft a monstrosity of kickbacks and backrubs that unified the GOP and left many moderate and conservative Democrats hesitant and shaky with the size, scope, and direction of the mammoth all-at-once legislation. Obama is now obligated to push this through just to prove that he can so that his Presidency can be “saved” for whomever is left to impress at this point. All of this for a bill that doesn’t start in earnest for another four years.

Though the final die has not yet been cast, Democrats may end up getting their legislative victory in the House on Sunday. But passage of the bill will in truth represent a failure of leadership and massive lost opportunity that this country will never see again. Greater division and discord, not lower costs, will be the final legacy of this bill, and the price of victory for Democrats may be too great for this nation to bear.

Cross-posted at Wellsy’s World.

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Copyright 2010 The Moderate Voice
  • shannonlee

    “price of victory for Democrats may be too great for this nation to bear.”

    Well, we’ll find out. Luckily for Reps, the passing means every Dem politician in every office across the nation will lose their seat….I guess every cloud has a silver lining.

    • $1690528

      Shannon,

      I sure hope not. I like gridlock. Too many republicans and my gridlock goes away.

      • shannonlee

        Oh I don’t know. Bush got a lot done in the years he controlled the government.

        Hey, it looks like Obama wants to touch immigration next….let the fun begin! again!

  • Schadenfreude_lives

    Nah, not Pelosi. As SNL so pointedly put it, she is from a district that Republicans finish behind transvestites.

    Pelosi could be caught in bed with a dead boy AND a live girl (to turn the phrase on its head), and still be re-elected handily.

    • shannonlee

      Well, the Tenderloin district is pretty big!

  • DLS

    “passing means every Dem politician in every office across the nation will lose their seat”

    Especially after they “learn” this lesson and try to pass cap and trade, card check, amnesty…

    But what will failing mean?

    I have a hunch some far lefties might actually be energized by failure of this junk legislation.

  • Disclaimer: I’m a registered IL Indie. Centrist, leaning slightly Left. For whatever that’s worth.

    You’ve made a few good points I agree with. Indeed, Dems have screwed up on HCR in a laundry list of ways–big surprise there–but it’s historically an issue ‘Pubs won’t even willingly touch. To boot, Congressional ‘Pubs, despite all their in-Party RINO drama, have determined to make the whole HCR issue that much harder to practically address. Another big surprise.

    Bottom line: the time for political posturing and armchair analysis is spent. Legislatively speaking, we’re now down to the 59th minute of the 11th hour. We either pass HCR in its current form (last I checked, it’s HR3590), with all its imperfections and by whatever means necessary, or we can bet HCR will once again be back-burnered to philo-politco diatribes and campaign rhetoric. Pardon me, but f**k that.

    Pass it now. Tweak it later.

    • ProfElwood

      we can bet HCR will once again be back-burnered to philo-politco diatribes and campaign rhetoric.

      I hear this a lot, but I don’t think so, for two reasons:

      1. Health care costs are rising too fast for people to absorb. The problems that the insurance model have caused can’t be ignored for that much longer.
      2. This bill will add to, not subtract from, the problems that are driving those cost increases. So it really doesn’t matter if it passes or not, we’ll be dealing with rising costs in the next few years. My biggest fear is that people will be more accepting of those increases because they’ll believe that something was already done.

      Disclaimer: I’m a registered IL Indie. Centrist, leaning slightly Left. For whatever that’s worth.

      Welcome to TMV. No need to disclaim, we’re all over the map here, with a few in uncharted territory.

      • As other opinions–both expert and not so much–have pointed out, the next Congress is likely to be more heavily Republican than it is today. To whatever degree the speculation becomes reality, I have zero reason to believe a more heavily-weighted ‘Pub Congress will do anything meaningful at all with regards to HCR. It seems you do not share my skepticism, but I’m unclear on the demonstrable basis of your apparent optimism.

        That said, what we have seen ‘work’, in the long run, is to pass less-than-perfect legislation and fix the problem parts later. No question, it’s an ugly process (NCLB!). But seriously, the ideological polarization we deal with today–above and beyond politics as usual– makes it nearly impossible to get anything done in DC, much less done well.

        So when I say, ‘Tweak it later.’, I fully realize that the term ‘tweak’ is quite the understatement.

        Thanks for the Howdy-Do, btw.

        • ProfElwood

          I have zero reason to believe a more heavily-weighted ‘Pub Congress will do anything meaningful at all with regards to HCR. It seems you do not share my skepticism

          That’s left-right thinking, I lean more libertarian, and encourage people to find another home party.

          I believe both parties will do nothing meaningful until they have no other choice (and I’m including this bill in the “nothing meaningful” category). I also don’t believe that the Republicans will have any real interest in repealing the legislation, although they may fake a swipe at it later. But the “tweak it later” idea is the one that I think is rather optimistic, IMO. If the wherewithal to take on the pharmaceuticals, or the AMA, or the hospital association, or even the larger insurance companies isn’t there now, what makes you think it will be there later?

          For instance, surgeons make thousands of dollars an hour, while paramedics make more normal money doing pretty much the same thing. It’s the outrageous fees, and “everything is worth it” concept that are driving up the costs, fueled by an “insurance” system that insulates people from those growing costs.

          • ‘left-right thinking’?; I’m inclined to argue that- it’s ultimately practical thinking. HC is a mind-bogglingly complex system, and its reform is equally challenging. The legs that support a stable HC system are 1) availability, 2) efficacy, and 3) cost. And these often intersect in complicated and challenging ways. That said, for every ‘for instance’ pro, there’s a ‘for instance’ con, and I’ll bet you know this. Going there would be unconstructive, so I won’t.

            Hey, I’d be all in for a third Party. With a few exceptions, I’m sufficiently disgusted with current Dem and ‘Pub machines. But I’m practical to a fault, and I’ve yet to see–in my 30 years of voting–a truly viable third Party, Third Parties tend to be uber-Right or uber-Left. I’ve never seen an uber-Centrist Party. It seems to me that, as voting blocs, we’ve become more polarized, not less, which makes it that much more impossible for a third Party to get a foothold.

            As for the ‘wherewithal’ to tweak HCR later … I might agree with you; no guarantees it will indeed be tweaked later. But this level of major shift in public policy never happens without a first step in the right direction. HC 3590, IMHO, is that first step. A step ‘Pubs will never take, so best to take it now, wobbly as it is.

    • JeffersonDavis

      “Pass it now. Tweak it later.”

      You DO realize, it will be a Republican Congress “tweaking” it, right?
      I wonder how that will go?

      But we still have to hear from the SCOTUS on the issue of Constitutionality. It may, yet again, be the Court that does the tweaking.

      • Yes, I do realize the next Congress will be more heavily weighted with ‘Pubs. Precisely why we need to pass HCR now, with all its problems. (See my response to ProfElwood)

  • adexterc

    yes, pass it now. The bankers got rich and we lost our jobs. They get rich and we die, while the CEO’s of the insurance companies give themselves big bucks

    • JeffersonDavis

      “The bankers got rich and we lost our jobs. They get rich and we die, while the CEO’s of the insurance companies give themselves big bucks”

      I was confused…. I thought you were talking about Congress but realized you meant CEOs.

      Congress has a cadillac golden-parachute healthcare plan. Do you?

  • imavettoo

    Oh I don’t know. Bush got a lot done in the years he controlled the government. Yeah & it was all a bunch of . What else can you expect from an & all of his sycophants?

  • DLS

    I always liked that clown avatar — better than anyone you might see on CNN, for example.

    “the 59th minute of the 11th hour”

    Hopefully the Dems can avoid what their too-leftward-federal-overreach year has earned them:

    not Waterloo, but Moscow (with a black, bleak year ahead of them as they’re kicked back to start over)

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/29/Minard.png

    Let’s see if they get it done — if they can.

  • WagglebutII

    Pass the bill! Pass it by one vote. It doesn’t matter. The right wingnuts of this country will never allow the right leaning centrists to participate in HCR. Pine as you will for rapturous bi-partisanship and perfect legislation. It will never happen because the extremist right wing nuts will plaster any centrist republican who genuinely participates in HCR as a socialist sympathizer. Fearing the right wingnut extremists’ fury, the republican centrists would lead their party to hell and the American people to the poor house. Pass the bill!

    • JeffersonDavis

      “bi-partisanship and perfect legislation. It will never happen because the extremist right wing nuts will plaster any centrist republican ”

      I noticed you didn’t mention the SAME tactic for blue-dog democrats who don’t support the bill. Pelosi has their gonads in a vice and turns the crank slowly. How, in your mind, is THAT ok; but the GOP doing the same to RINOS is wrong?

      If representatives simply voted how THEIR CONSTITUENTS wished, the bill would fail handely. Their refusal to do so will result in their being unemployed next January.

      • WagglebutII

        You give Pelosi far more credit than due. If she had centrist dems in a vulnerable position the bill would have all ready passed. I doubt she’s got hold of her husband’s gonads.

        She & Harry Reid both should be run out of Washington just behind Rahm Emanuel.

        • JeffersonDavis

          “She & Harry Reid both should be run out of Washington just behind Rahm Emanuel.”

          You’ll get no arguement from me on that one.

  • DLS

    I hope many lefties don’t believe the childish wails among them that failure to pass this junk legislation now will mean no progress on reform of health care for a generation. That always was laughable. The problems we have now won’t permit that to happen — obviously. [sigh]

    The problems you’re seeing now are with the Dems, who put themselves into this predicament by doing so much earlier this past year that nobody but the fringe far left wanted (and many of them were dissatisfied and wanted more!). The public (the mainstream, anyway) is wary of the Dems and worries what they’ll do.

    The Dems are lowly as can be, desperate to pass legislation any way they can. (And it’s junk legislation!) What we in the mainstream dread, as well as this junk legislation and whatever harmful effects it will have, is what else the Dems will try if they can get past the the GOP filibusters? Cap and trade scam? We don’t want it. Card check (a sop to the unions, almost extinct in the private sector)? We don’t want it. Amnesty and signing up legions of new Dem voters, legally for a change? We don’t want it. We dread it.

  • DLS

    “Pelosi has their gonads in a vice and turns the crank slowly. How, in your mind, is THAT ok;”

    Honest far-lefties would say it’s okay to take the Blue Dog “traitors” to Guantanamo for special treatment.

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