There’s an old saying that if you’re arguing process, you’ve lost the debate. In this age of Twitter and 30-second sound bites, it is generally true, and I try not to delve too deeply into the weeds of process and procedure in this daily report. But you need to know what’s going on in Congress right now.
Last week President Obama insisted that healthcare reform was so important that it deserved an up or down vote by any means necessary. Obama demanded Congress get it done before the end of March, before members of Congress have to face their constituents back home. He also ordered his liberal allies to go “nuclear” by resorting to complicated and controversial budget reconciliation rules, which he once vehemently opposed.
For days, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have struggled to figure how they can “reform” 20% of our economy under strict rules only intended to guarantee the passage of a budget. Reconciliation rules require that the House pass the Senate’s healthcare bill first, then pass a “bill of fixes” or a separate reconciliation bill, which then has to be approved by the Senate.
The problem for House Democrats is that the Senate bill includes several provisions considered onerous to many House members for a variety of reasons – from abortion funding to immigration issues, kickbacks and tax hikes. Many House Democrats do not want to vote for the Senate bill, which is reportedly “dead on arrival.” But Speaker Pelosi and other House leaders thought they had a way around it.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly cancelled all House committee hearings today so she could corral members of her caucus and present details of their “end game.” One plan under consideration would invoke another parliamentary maneuver referred to as the “Slaughter rule,” after Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), chairwoman of the House Rules Committee. The Slaughter rule allows the House to vote on only the reconciliation “bill of fixes,” and in doing so consider the Senate bill as passed by the House without an actual up or down vote on the Senate’s bill.
I realize this is a lot of “inside baseball,” but it is important. Our public servants should not be going through such contortions to pass a bill the public opposes. It is an insult to the central principle of our republic: The Consent of the Governed.
The author of the reconciliation process, Sen. Robert Bryd (D-WV,) understood this. Here’s a stirring video of Byrd explaining why he refused to allow Bill Clinton to pass HillaryCare through reconciliation. All those arguments are valid today.
But there has been a major development in the past few hours. According to Roll Call, “The Senate parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package.” In other words, the House must pass the Senate bill, with all its objectionable provisions, before the reconciliation bill can proceed. As I noted, there is little support for the Senate bill in the House today. Stay tuned!
Culture Of Corruption?
Every day it seems there are new headlines about new scandals. For example, Eric Massa may not be the most credible witness, but his charge that he was muscled out of Congress over his “no” vote on healthcare deserves to be investigated.
Massa initially said he was going to retire at the end of the year. Then word of an Ethics Committee investigation over alleged homosexual conduct was leaked to the press. Massa’s abrupt resignation has lowered the threshold for a majority vote on ObamaCare just as the debate is coming to a close.
Today we learned two interesting bits of information related to Mr. Massa. Though she initially denied any knowledge, Speaker Pelosi’s office reportedly knew of Massa’s odd behavior last year. And with Massa out of the picture, CBS News reported last night that the Ethics Committee shut down its investigation.
But in a stunning reversal, the House of Representatives today voted to re-open the Massa investigation. House Republican Leader John Boehner (OH) offered a resolution directing the Ethics Committee to investigate exactly what the leadership knew about Massa and when it knew it. The House overwhelmingly approved Boehner’s resolution. Stay tuned.
And late yesterday news broke that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the ranking Republican on the House Government Reform Committee, is investigating a possible felony violation of federal election laws by key White House officials. Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) has stated in recent media interviews that administration officials offered him a high-level federal job if he would end his primary campaign against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA).
In short, it is alleged that someone at the White House offered Sestak, a retired three-star admiral, a bribe. According to federal law, it is illegal for any government employees to use their office “for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or election of any candidate.”
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