Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

04/09/2010 (4:52 pm)

…and Why The Republican Party Will Be Replaced By the Tea Party

Moving on from yesterday’s excursion into the frank and deliberate dishonesty of the media in support of the Democratic party’s habitual character assassination, today we get to see why the Republican party continues to shrink.

W. James Antle III at the American Spectator censured Sen. John Cornyn (R, TX), the leader of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, for backing down from “Repeal and Replace” with respect to the Democrats’ shove-it-down-our-throats crap sandwich called, misleadingly, “health care reform.” Granted, his basis for doing this was yet another dishonestly-written AP article, this one by Charles Babington and Philip Elliott, attempting to cow Republicans into going along with their fellows who are backing down from “Repeal and Replace” on the advice of — wait for it — Democratic party strategists.

Still, it appears that Cornyn has backed off his staunch repeal platform, opting instead for one that focuses on the immediate economic impact of the bill to which several corporations have attested. This may be a tactical shift rather than a strategic retreat. As the AP article finally notes starting in paragraph 20:

Republican strategist Kevin Madden said the repeal message is “a call to action” that excites many conservative voters, who will be important in November. But the risk of talking only about repeal, he said, “is you only define your position by what you’re against.”

Madden said GOP candidates should advocate “repeal and reform,” which will let them discuss alternative ways to control health care expenses, quality and access. Because an actual repeal is unlikely, he said, candidates should not get bogged down in the mechanics of how it might work, and focus instead on issues such as costs.

“The legislative track is largely finished,” Madden said.

The point about stating an alternative strategy — the “reform” part of “repeal and reform” — is well taken, but let’s hope that’s all he means. Even if there are portions of the bill that make sense, the Republican party needs to repeal the entire bill, then go back and pass the parts they want as individual measures. They don’t know all that the Democratic party intends with this Everest of paper with its Machiavellian flood of subterfuge, and I doubt their ability to figure it all out.

In particular, the Democrats are attempting to talk Republicans into claiming that they’ll keep the measure that forbids insurance companies from refusing customers with pre-existing conditions; if that measure remains in force, health insurance is dead as an industry, as the right to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions constitutes the very heart of insurance underwriting.

This seems to be the Democratic party strategy: make the Republican candidate commit to repealing the bill, which they believe will eventually be more popular than it is now.

Menendez said Democrats in many states will ask their GOP opponents why they want to restore insurance companies’ ability to deny coverage to people with medical problems and to young adults who otherwise can stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26.

Candidates seeking the GOP nominations in many states, Menendez said, “are facing tremendous pressure from the tea party, from the party base” to embrace a position that could hurt them when more independent and moderate voters go to the polls in the general election.

Republicans who listen to this deceptive pap will pay for it. Recall Gingrich’s speech that I posted a few days ago. He observed correctly that the 2006 and 2008 elections were a referendum on Republican governance, and resulted in a profound vote of no confidence. If the Republicans back off from repealing the health care tyranny, that result will be repeated. Conservative voters will not settle for tyranny on the installment plan, nor will they accept Republican candidates who lack the spine to stand up to tyrants. If civil war is going to be avoided, it must be by decisive action to roll back unacceptable measures using traditional means.

The Tea Party as a group is popular with a much larger number of Americans than is the Republican party. The recent revelation of misspending among high-ranking offices in the Republican National Committee was damaging enough, but if the party consents to the new health care regime with only an attempt to adjust a few items, we’ll probably see the Republican party representing fewer than 20% of the voters within the next year or two. While most of us have spent a lifetime believing that a third party was not a real possibility in American politics, we may actually be watching a major shift in party loyalty, such that the Republican party will disappear and be replaced by a party representing the traditional Constitutional view of American politics

04/06/2010 (12:31 pm)

Repeal HCR: The Tyrant Revealed… In the IRS

A large number of Americans objected that the Obama health care regime constitutes tyranny, and is not legitimate law. I wrote earlier that by John Locke’s definition of law, health care reform (“HCR” in this article’s title) is not law, and demolishes the rule of law.

Yesterday we saw the first, clear indication that this distinction has practical consequences, when Obama’s Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service declared that citizens who fail to comply with the health care mandate will lose their tax refunds. (By the way, you might want to defer looking up that link until tomorrow; the site appears to be getting crushed by an unanticipated number of visitors.)

Individuals who don’t purchase health insurance may lose their tax refunds according to IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. After acknowledging the recently passed health-care bill limits the agency’s options for enforcing the individual mandate, Shulman told reporters that the most likely way to penalize individuals that don’t comply is by reducing or confiscating their tax refunds.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Monday, Shulman downplayed the IRS’s role in enforcing the recent overhaul of the health insurance industry by claiming the agency would not aggressively target individuals who don’t purchase coverage. He noted that the health-care bill expressly forbids the agency from freezing bank accounts, seizing assets or pursuing criminal charges, but when pressed said the IRS would most likely use tax refund offsets to penalize those that don’t comply with the mandate. The IRS uses refund offsets to collect from individuals that owe the federal government a delinquent debt.

“These are not the kinds of things we send agents out about,” Shulman said. “These are things where you get a letter from us. Congress was very careful to make sure there was nothing too punitive in this bill.”

The key to the affairs rests in the fact that this enforcement mechanism does not appear to exist in the bill. I searched the pdf copy of the bill (you can find the text of the bill here) and discovered that the only reference to the IRS comes in the portions creating a notification for the failure to comply with the mandate. I was unable to find the actual penalties. American Pundit echoes Business Week in positing a $325 per-person fine beginning in 2015, with an increase to $695 per person the following year.

When the law consists of the desires of a single man or the whim of a bureau, liberty does not exist. When the government can exact penalties for a positive failure to perform a specific act, it can compel anything at all. This law must be repealed, or a new nation must be formed.

Repeal of this act will not be enough, however. We need, at the least, a constitutional amendment clarifying the limits of the commerce clause, to correct the out-of-control expansion of allowable government meddling.

03/25/2010 (7:48 pm)

Obama: "Go For It" (Updated)

The Hill reports a speech by President Obama in which he challenges Republicans to try to repeal the health care reform act.

“This is the reform that some folks in Washington are still hollering about. And now that it’s passed, they’re already promising to repeal it,” Obama said. “They’re actually going to run on a platform of repeal in November. Well, I say go for it.”

This brings to mind President Bush’s similar moment of bravado, when, on July 1 of 2003 he declared his confidence in US military preparedness for destabilizing attacks in Iraq by saying “Bring it on.”

The most remarkable difference between these two challenges by two Presidents is this:

Obama’s enemies are Americans.

In fact, a Rasmussen telephone poll released today indicates that 55% of Americans polled favor repealing the health care act, 46% of them strongly. So the adversaries that Obama is challenging are the majority of American citizens.

President Bush later regretted the combative tone of his challenge, acknowledging that some around the world got the wrong message. But at least he was challenging America’s enemies.

The President’s speech was delivered in Iowa City, IA, where candidate Obama first announced his health care agenda,


UPDATE: American Elephants linked here (thanks, guys), and also found the video from the speech. Here’s the video:

03/23/2010 (6:12 pm)

Bureaucratic Privilege and the Rule of Law

Charles Kessler makes an interesting distinction between law and privilege in his March 10 editorial at RealClearPolitics.com entitled The Tea Party Spirit. Invoking Locke’s definition of law, he observes that the health care reform act is not really a law at all, but the empowerment of bureaucrats to make arbitrary decisions. According to Kessler, this utterly defeats the rule of law, and constitutes the very definition of despotism.

Listen:

When our founders thought about law, they often thought along the lines of John Locke, who described law as a community’s “settled standing rules, indifferent, and the same to all parties,” emphasizing that to be legitimate a statute must be “received and allowed by common consent to be the standard of right and wrong, and the common measure to decide all controversies” between citizens.

This phonebook-sized law that would control a sixth of the U.S. economy cannot be a law by that definition. If you rummage through the text of, say, the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, you find scores of places where power is delegated to administrative agencies and special boards, which are charged to fill the gaps in the written legislation by promulgating thousands, if not tens of thousands, of new pages of regulations that will then be applied to individual cases. Voters sometimes complain that legislators don’t read the laws they enact. Why would they, in this case? You could read this leviathan until your eyeballs popped out and still not find any “settled, standing rules” or a meaning that is “indifferent, and the same to all parties.”

In fact, that’s the point of such promiscuous laws. They operate not by setting up fences to protect each man’s liberty. They start not from equal rights but from equal (and often unequal) privileges, the favors or benefits that government may bestow on or withhold from its clients. The whole point is to empower government officials, usually unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, to bless or curse your petitions as they see fit, guided, of course, by their expertness in a law so vast, so intricate, and so capricious that it could justify a hundred different outcomes in the same case. Faster than one might think, a government of equal laws turns into a regime of arbitrary privileges.

A “privilege” is literally a private law. When law ceases to be a common “standard of right and wrong” and a “common measure to decide all controversies,” then the rule of law ceases to be republican and becomes despotic.

That’s the core of it, but he also makes a nifty comparison between the proximate cause of the original Tea Party in Boston and the modern movement that goes by the same name. It’s worth a look.

Hat tip goes to PowerLineBlog.

03/23/2010 (2:45 pm)

Repeal Health Care Reform, Day 1

In order to keep the socialist health care disaster front and center through November and past, in order to repeal it at the earliest possible moment, I propose to continue to write posts regarding health care and the appropriate way to reform it. Believe me, the monstrosity passed Sunday night was not it, and was not intended to be.

For today’s reminder, I recommend Rich Trzupek’s article over at Big Government, noting a remarkable editorial in the Chicago Tribune. Take a look:

The irony would be amusing, were the stakes not so serious. The very day that the United States Congress passed sweeping legislation that will undermine the economy, increase debt and send tax rates soaring, a leading liberal media outlet criticized the elected officials who have been in charge of the president’s home state for repeatedly passing legislation that has: undermined Illinois’ economy, increased Illinois’ debt and sent Illinois tax rates soaring, thus poisoning the business environment and employment prospects in the state. It appears that government’s mission isn’t to tax and spend. Who knew?

It will be hard to believe, but when Illinois Democrats passed all of the legislation that got Illinois into this cesspool of a fiscal crisis, both they and the MSM assured voters that the there was nothing to worry about. These great new programs, they said, will actually make the state more prosperous and, if you disagreed with that proposition, then you were obviously a crabby conservative trying make political hay at the expense of what was obviously the best thing for the people of the state of Illinois. Sound familiar?

Having seen the light, the Chicago Tribune urged readers to clean house in Springfield in a May 21 editorial, because the current bunch of Illinois legislators have created an untenable financial crisis and refuse to fix it. No kidding.

Might the Tribune have seen this crisis coming before it reached these epic proportions? It might have, had the paper been listening to conservative Illinois Republicans who predicted this was going to happen as far back as 2002. That was when then Illinois state senator Steve Rauschenberger, a strong fiscal conservative and a Republican, outlined in horrifying detail exactly how the state’s economy was going to crash and burn if Blagojevich and the Democrats went forward with their plans. And, at that point, all Blago and the Dems were doing was robbing state pension funds to pay for other government goodies.

It got worse, much worse, after they implemented the Illinois version of universal healthcare. Today, the situation is so bad that health-care providers have had to wait nine months to a year or more for Medicaid reimbursements from the state, with the predictable reductions in access to care. Thus, “improving” health care in Illinois has only made it worse.

Sounds like the model that Barack Obama, who helped create this mess as a state senator by the way, is going to emulate on a national scale, doesn’t it?

The most shameful part of this entire socialist mess is how easy it is to predict the outcome, based on the performance of prior attempts to do precisely the same thing. No health care measure in the modern world has succeeded in coming in under budget, with the exception of Medicare Part D — and that one relied on actual market forces to keep drug costs down. The Medicare program itself is more than 9 times its predicted size. The current plan will be no different; only, the dollar will not last the next ten years for us to find out.

I remember making this point to a socialist acquaintance, who replied glibly something along the lines of “Past failure is no predictor of future success.” Of course, he did not even give a single thought to how results could be made different this time around; he was just looking for a rhetorical foil to avoid having to defend charges of repeating past failures. That’s a guarantee that past failures will be repeated.

By the way, repeal or no repeal, insurance companies are going to start making plans to leave the business based on what is expected in the first year of ObamaCare’s implementation. Just out of the blocks, insurance companies may not refuse insurance to children with pre-existing medical conditions, may not cap lifetime medical expenditures, and may not drop their insured once they’ve become ill. If one understands anything about risk underwriting, one understands that restrictions like these on insurers make it impossible for them to control risk exposure. Rates will shoot upward, or insurance companies will start losing money. Either way, health care “reform” will begin its intended work: with rates rising and insurers leaving the business, progressives will seize the opportunity to declare private insurance a complete failure (neglecting to mention that they, the progressives, deliberately caused the failure) and implement completely-government-controlled health care.

Does anybody here need the explanation regarding why these three restrictions on insurers will drive them out of business? You should read Paul Hsieh’s explanation regarding insurability at The Objective Standard, and David Catron’s discusson of insurance mandates at The American Spectator. I will add that by preventing insurers from dropping their insured when they get sick, insurers have lost any serious protection against fraud by enrollees. Insurers, like any other American, should be free to contract whatever they choose, with whomever they choose, and they are entitled to the sorts of legal protection to which all free citizens are entitled.

03/22/2010 (12:22 pm)

The Campaign, Yes. The Leader, No.

Mitt Romney has penned the correct words.

America has just witnessed an unconscionable abuse of power. President Obama has betrayed his oath to the nation — rather than bringing us together, ushering in a new kind of politics, and rising above raw partisanship, he has succumbed to the lowest denominator of incumbent power: justifying the means by extolling the ends. He promised better; we deserved better.

He calls his accomplishment “historic” — in this he is correct, although not for the reason he intends. Rather, it is an historic usurpation of the legislative process — he unleashed the nuclear option, enlisted not a single Republican vote in either chamber, bribed reluctant members of his own party, paid-off his union backers, scapegoated insurers, and justified his act with patently fraudulent accounting. What Barack Obama has ushered into the American political landscape is not good for our country; in the words of an ancient maxim, “what starts twisted, ends twisted.”

His health-care bill is unhealthy for America. It raises taxes, slashes the more private side of Medicare, installs price controls, and puts a new federal bureaucracy in charge of health care. It will create a new entitlement even as the ones we already have are bankrupt. For these reasons and more, the act should be repealed. That campaign begins today.

Great words. Amen.

RomneyPublicHowever, the campaign needs a leader. Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, championed a health insurance plan for citizens of Massachusetts that looks remarkably similar to the main elements of the Congressional Democrats’ health care plan. I have heard him say not a single word in criticism of that plan, nor any explanation why it would be good for Massachusetts, but bad for America.

I can attest from my own experience here in Massachusetts that the plan does not solve any significant problem, and causes several. It is nearly impossible for a citizen receiving the forms of insurance for earners of below-average income — that’s 50% of the citizens, keep in mind — to find a doctor. The state, meanwhile, is going bankrupt, and the medical plan is horribly above budget.

So, yes, the campaign starts today, and yes, the campaign needs an aggressive, forward-looking and savvy leader. But Mitt Romney is not it. He’s just an opportunist running for President. We’ve had our fill of opportunists.

Nice try, though, Mitt. Great tactics. Now, please step aside for citizens of conscience.

For the record, I would be thrilled to have Mr. Romney as head of the Office of Management and Budget, or possibly as Treasury Secretary, under a genuinely conservative President. He’s a highly competent financial administrator.

03/21/2010 (10:47 pm)

A Major Battle Lost

The House voted to accept the fixes to the Senate bill, and by doing so deemed the Senate bill having been passed by the House. The bill now returns to the Senate, where Republicans will attempt to kill the bill by way of procedural hurdles. They will not succeed. Perhaps the bill will be declared unconstitutional by some court in a few years.

The health care “reform” bill is the most irresponsible legislative act of my lifetime. It will tie the nation in knots of litigation for years. It will destroy the medical profession. It will destroy the health insurance industry, a perfectly legal industry that had the misfortune of being a handy demon for Democratic party scare-mongers. It will haphazardly gut Medicare, a program that needed to be reformed intelligently, and leave the bulk of my generation without appropriate medical care coverage in our old age. It will put the finishing touches on the utter demolition of the dollar, which will in turn demolish the world’s economy, causing the death by starvation or neglect of millions of the world’s poor; such is the inevitable result of the hubris we call “progressivism,” a belief system dictated by demons. It will end government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

The government of the United States no longer governs with my consent. It is a tyrant, and illegitimate. I will commence measures to persuade as many states as possible to remove themselves from the Union, which is a sinking ship. I will move to one of those as soon as I can.

Some of the lessons learned along the way:

The Democratic party no longer has any regard for the people of the United States, nor for legitimate governance, nor for truth, nor for decency. No act of theirs in this year-long process has been decent or honorable. God damn them.

Bart Stupak (D. MI) and the so-called “pro-life Democrats” clearly are Democrats before they are pro-life, which means they are not pro-life at all. They caved at the last minute for a promise of an Executive Order that will have no effect. Executive Orders cannot override acts of the legislature, and Stupak knows it; he was just looking for an excuse to end the pressure, and Obama read him like a book. All pro-life organizations should immediately remove their endorsements from any Democrat who voted for this bill. It was foolish to count on them; Democrats cannot be trusted.

Citizen self-government cannot survive with a populace that has been robbed of a sound education, including an education in moral virtue and sound theology. Liberty requires faith.

We need to consider ways to make Alinsky tactics illegal. Citizen self-government did not survive the assault by amoral disciples of Alinsky. These tactics are deeply immoral, and should be against the law.

David Frum is carping “I told you so” like a spoiled teenage girl, blaming this defeat on Republicans who insisted on defending citizen self-government resolutely. He thinks we should have given up our liberties gradually; he thinks it is possible to strike deals with demons. Forget him; he’s a mindless idiot. We stood on the right ground, and fought as hard as we could. We lost. We will now retreat to our next line of defense and fight the next battle. The appropriate line of defense is a separate, conservative nation. The Democrats set their hearts on demolishing self-government, and they have succeeded. Let us leave, and let them collapse into the barbarism that they carry in their hearts. Their nation will not last 20 years with the Republicans gone.

I will never again refrain from an act because I fear it will demolish the structure of the nation. This nation needs to be demolished. If the Republicans gain control of the Senate in the fall, I say “Go nuclear, and take no prisoners.” Destroy every tradition of civility. Discover the most devious tactics possible. Run roughshod over Democrats. Ignore their wishes. Embarrass them at every opportunity. They have proved themselves enemies of civility; they no longer deserve the protection of civility.

03/19/2010 (10:37 am)

House Votes For Revolution

Reconciliation_Obama_MaksThe House yesterday passed the rule authorizing the vote for the Senate health care bill “fixes” to be deemed final passage of the health care bill, the so-called “Slaughter Rule,” by a margin of 222 – 203. All but 28 Democrats voted in favor of the rule; all voting Republicans voted against. Six Representatives did not vote. Michael Barone has the math and some analysis about what it all means.

We can be sure that no member of the House is so dense as to miss the intent of the rules legislation, so I think it’s actually safe to assert that voting “No” to the “fixes” will constitute voting “No” to the bill. That said, the maneuver guarantees extremes of ill feeling around the nation and especially in the House, and guarantees that whatever measure passes will trigger a flood of Constitutional crises unlike anything we have seen in this nation.

We have already seen the beginning of this flood in the Tea Party movement, in the actions of independent legal organizations, and in the actions of individual states to declare their intent to resist the national law. Mark Levin’s Landmark Legal Foundation has already posted its intended lawsuit against any bill passed through the procedural legerdemain the Democrats are attempting. Yesterday Idaho became the first state to sign into law a measure requiring its state attorney general to file a lawsuit against the federal government if the government passes a mandate requiring citizens to purchase health insurance. Idaho ran neck-and-neck with Virginia, which passed a similar measure through its General Assembly yesterday but did not have the bill signed into law by the Governor. Florida’s attorney general has already indicated that he intends to sue, and similar measures are being considered in 37 states besides Idaho.

It is not clear that these lawsuits will succeed, nor that they will fail. It is clear, however, that the citizenry will not quietly accept what it considers to be tyrannical dictate from Congress. If ObamaCare passes, campaigns for Congress in the fall will be filled with candidates running on reversing the health care legislation. Courts will be swamped with litigation attempting to stymie the implementation of many of the legislation’s mandates. Secession movements will rise in several states.

Libertarian cynics speculate that the chaos arising from the Democrats’ headlong effort to “kick through the door” is exactly what President Obama wants in order to impose martial law and take over the government altogether. While I find this far-fetched, I’m pretty sure that such an order to impose martial law would be resisted throughout much of the military, and would initiate the opening phase of a civil war pitting progressives against libertarian/conservatives. This is the cataclysm that timely secession could avoid, but it may be unavoidable if the President really does have takeover intentions. So be it. War is a horror, and I’m sure we all would prefer to avoid it, but as Earnest Hemmingway said, there are worse things than war, and they happen after defeat.

Speculation about cataclysms and conspiracies aside, the most likely scenario at this moment, assuming ObamaCare passes, is that the legislation will get tied up in the courts, Congress will change hands, and the new Congress will vote to rescind the measure. This is where the Democrats’ current accretion of ill will will become important. Democrats will need only 40 votes to stymie rescission measures as the minority, as opposed to needing 60 to pass as the majority, but Republicans will have no compunction against drastic measures to bypass the Senate filibuster in the wake of this spring’s procedural madness. Democrats will scream like stuck pigs, of course — when do they not? — but who will take them seriously this time around? Passing such unpopular legislation using such unsavory means amounts to a declaration of war.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Coburn has nailed a resolution to the Capitol door, declaring what is going to happen to those Representatives who think they’ll get cushy federal appointments when they lose their re-election bid over voting “Yes” on ObamaCare, or who want to hide the fact that they sold their votes. It’s good to know that a few of our Congressmen have something resembling a spine left.

We live in interesting times.

03/12/2010 (5:40 pm)

Democracy At Work. Don't Look.

470px-Obama_Health_Care_Speech_to_Joint_Session_of_Congress

The dictum says that one should never watch bills being passed or sausage being made. The Congressional machinations over the ObamaCare bills the last couple of days illustrate why. It’s not a pretty process, and it’s not easy to understand.

Chris Muir’s Day By Day cartoon today illustrates; it posits an attempt to pass legislation without voting on it. That’s not exactly what’s happening — any more than the Dept of Defense bundling 3 years’ worth of contracts into a single bid constituted a “no-bid contract” for Halliburton. Daniel Foster had a pretty solid explanation of the maneuver being contemplated by the Democrats at The Corner yesterday. The short version is that the House Rules committee decides before debate what the rules governing that bill’s debate will be, and the House votes on the rules by a simple majority. They thus have the ability to bundle bills together, such that the passage of one automatically produces the passage of the other by the same vote. However, the House does get to vote on the rule itself.

So, the current situation being the confused and confusing mess that it is, I’ve decided to summarize the parliamentary machinations. Health care reform for dummies.

The Federalist Society has about the simplest explanation of Congressional reconciliation that I’ve seen so far. In fact, it describes the entire health care reform process in a nutshell. But I’m going to try to reduce it even more here. Here we go:

Once the Democrats passed health care reform through the Senate on Christman Eve, the Democrats path to health care reform looked like this: (1) House and Senate Democratic leaders would meet off-line to agree on what needed to be changed to make the two bills compatible. (2) The House would pass the Senate bill, but with amendments stipulated that would make it acceptable to the House. (3) The Senate would consider the Senate bill with the House’s recommended amendments, and pass it. The bill would become law.

The Democrats super-majority in the Senate made it possible to pursue this path, since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) would have been able to lock Republican amendments out of the Senate bill, and would have been able to defeat a filibuster.

The voters in Massachusetts, of which I proudly count myself one, threw a roadblock into that path on January 19 of this year by electing Scott Brown to the Senate. Brown, of course, ran on the basis of being “Number 41,” the vote to stop health care reform. Suddenly, Reid is no longer able to pass the amended House version of health care reform, as described above.

Democrats had two options: (1) scrap the current bill, and produce a version that would garner bipartisan support; or (2) find a way to side-step the filibuster in the Senate. They chose (2).

The only avenue they’ve found to side-step the filibuster is an arcane process created in a budget bill in 1974 called “reconciliation.” Reconciliation is designed to streamline the act of making a budget resolution conform to existing Senate and House budgeting laws — things like “Paygo,” spending caps, or required deficit reduction. Without reconciliation, dozens of committees would have to coordinate their separate processes, and each individual committee output would have to be debated and voted upon. Under reconciliation, the entire process gets bundled into a single resolution that gets voted on once, and gets debated under vastly restricted rules. The Senate’s version of reconciliation prohibits filibuster; it preserves the Senate’s tradition of empowering minorities only in that it gives the Senate power to excise from the reconciliation bill any measure that does not pertain to actually reconciling the budget — the so-called Byrd Rule. In other words, reconciliation was supposed to be used for fixing a budget, and only for fixing a budget.

Democrats have been engaging in their usual, steroid-enhanced rationalization since President Obama announced his intent to use reconciliation. Their rationalization has been that reconciliation has been used dozens of times, mostly by Republicans, and not only on budget matters. They omit that when used, it was used with bipartisan agreement to streamline a difficult process, not by a majority to bypass Senate filibusters. Be that as it may, Democrats are still restricted by the rules of the game; the Senate Parliamentarian still has the power to remove from the reconciliation bill any item that does not pertain to budgeting.

Wednesday, a report originating in the Senate Parliamentarian’s office claimed that the Senate could not begin the reconciliation process before the Christmas Eve version of the Senate bill had been signed into law. This cannot happen without the House voting on the Senate bill and passing it just as it stands, without any amendment. House Speaker Pelosi agrees that this is what must occur.

With reconciliation, and with this ruling, the Democrats’ path to passing health care reform now looks like this: (1) House and Senate Democratic leaders will meet off-line to agree on what needs to be changed to make the two bills compatible, just as before. (2) The House will vote on the Christmas Eve version of the Senate bill, unchanged, and pass it. (3) The President will sign the bill into law. (4) The Senate will engage in the reconciliation process to bring the bill into conformity to the pre-agreed-upon form that is acceptable to the House. (5) The President will sign the reconciliation bill, which will change the now-passed health care reform bill into agreement with what House and Senate leaders agreed upon.

This means that anti-abortion Democrats in the House have to agree to pass a version of health care reform that frankly forces the federal government to pay for abortions — trusting that the Senate will thereafter pass an amendment to nullify that fact. House Democrats likewise have to trust Senate Democrats to cooperate with them on any other particular with which they disagree. The outcome rests largely on the ability of Democrats in the House to trust Democrats in the Senate. Whether they can trust will say a great deal about the Democrats’ view of members of their own party.

Details of the differences between the House and Senate health care reform bills are here.

Bruce McQuain at QandO has the current magic numbers for the House vote on the unadjusted Senate bill.

MichaelW, also at QandO, has this neat summary of what the House Democrats are facing buried in his discussion of the latest legislative maneuvering:

Again, whether or not the “fixes” required by House members to get their vote will actually survive the Byrd Rule part of the reconciliation process is a huge question. In addition, Republicans will have other means of attacking the bill, such as challenging its long-term budget effect which could scuttle the entire thing. So, not only do the wavering House members need to be assured that the Senate will vote for their fixes in the reconciliation bill, they also have to know that those fixes will survive the process, and that the reconciliation bill as a whole will be capable of being passed under the budgetary constraints peculiar to such legislation. That’s a whole lot of “if’s” that need to be answered before the Senate bill comes to the floor for a vote.

What is happening here is democracy in action, making it well-nigh impossible for a well-entrenched majority to barrel-roll the minority. This is how the process is designed to work, and illustrates just how lucky we are that our forefathers were far-sighted enough to make the law-making process difficult for a simple majority to pass. The Democrats may be operating in bad faith, but by God, the system is still working.

03/08/2010 (10:06 am)

We're Just Too Stupid

George Will slammed Robert Reich to the mat on ABC News’ Roundtable yesterday over one of his recitations of Democratic party lies about health care — and please make no mistake, they are lies, not disagreements. Reich responded by what he considered a sure rebuttal, and gave away the core of the Democratic party belief structure — the notion that the American people are just too damned stupid to make their own health care decisions, and need the help of those incredibly bright liberals to make them for them, for their own good. Listen:

I’ve had a handful of serious conversations with sincere liberals over the years, on the rare occasions that they decided for some reason that it was worthwhile to make an attempt to understand the mentally challenged like me. In each instance, at some point in the conversation they revealed at the core of their thinking the same contemptuous notion: the average citizen in America has no idea how to run his own life, and needs to be directed in order to prevent him from destroying the world. It really is the foundation stone of progressive belief.

Where they get the evidence supporting the notion that they, the progressives, have been any more successful in ordering their lives than the average American, I can only guess. For my part, I’m with William Buckley, and would rather pick 200 citizens at random to make governmental decisions than allow the progressives’ 200 best minds to do it.

By the way, Reich’s first statement is the biggest lie of all. Nobody serious regards health care as the signature issue of our time; it doesn’t even appear on the lists of major issues when the American people are polled, except when the Democrats have manufactured yet another attempt to force national health care down the nation’s throat. What makes health care a major issue for Democrats is its usefulness in creating a permanent bureaucratic majority. They push the topic because it produces power for them, period.

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