The Cowardice Of The House
Even loyal Democrats must surely be getting quesy about the prospect of passing major legislation that will have enormous consequences not only for health care, but for the deficit and the U.S. economy forevermore, through increasingly desperate measures that try to cover for the fact that the public is opposed and the votes just aren’t there.
The latest whip counts show opponents of defeating the reconciliation strategy a mere eleven declared no votes away from victory, so now the focus is on an even more gimmicky option of merely voting on amendments to the Senate bill and thus “deeming” the original to have passed the House without a vote. If that doesn’t strike you as cowardly for legislation of this magnitude, I wonder about your mental stability.
The Washington Post editorial board blasts the manuevering:
WE UNDERSTAND the administration’s sense of urgency on health-care reform. But what is intended as a final sprint threatens to turn into something unseemly and, more important, contrary to Democrats’ promises of transparency and time for deliberation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday that she is leaning toward a parliamentary maneuver under which the House would vote on a package of changes to the Senate-approved reform bill, and the underlying Senate bill would then be “deemed” to have passed, even though the House had never voted on it. That may help some House members dodge a politically difficult decision, but it strikes us as a dodgy way to reform the health-care system. Democrats who vote for the package will be tagged with supporting the Senate bill in any event. Why not be straightforward about it?
More worrying is that Congress and the country have yet to see the changes, for which Democrats hope to win quick House approval and which they then hope to speed through the Senate under a procedure that would bar filibusters. These changes — the so-called reconciliation bill — are not all minor “fixes”; some could have far-reaching consequences. Such changes deserve to be fully understood and debated before they are voted on.
Another reason for the change in tactic is that the reconciliation process requires that the House bill reduce the deficit in comparison with the Senate bill that is being reconciled (recall that reconciliation’s original purpose was as a deficit reduction tool) and the House has of course given away the farm to try to ensure passage, and thus it is increasingly unlikely that the CBO will issue a report that even ALLOWS the use of reconciliation.
All of this should give everyone but the most stubbornly partisan Democrats ample cause to reflect: ditch the current package and start over. Involve the Blue Dogs and the Republicans. Accept that such notions as universal coverage and the public option will not pass in the current climate and stick with what reforms will.
This is increasingly turning into a political fiasco of epic proportions. If the Democrats truly intend to use the “deem and pass” strategy (the GOP is forcing a vote on the strategy, as well it should), I deem it likely a large number will not return for another term…