March 1, 2010
By Tom Barrett
During last Thursday's so-called bipartisan health care summit Obama threatened Republicans with the "Nuclear Option" of the reconciliation process. He told them, "American's aren't interested in Congressional procedures, and most think a majority vote makes sense." What arrogance!
Just a few years ago Obama, along with Joe Biden and Harry Reid condemned the reconciliation process as an "abuse of power" when it was used as the Senate rules intended it to be used – for reconciling the House and Senate versions of budget bills. But on Thursday he threatened to use it in a way that Democrat Robert Byrd (who designed the process), never intended it to be used – to ram through a massive $2.5 Trillion bill that will forever impact one-sixth of the US economy.
In 2005 Democrats railed against Republicans for daring to use the reconciliation process which they had designed, for the purpose for which it had been intended: reconciling a budget bill. On April 25, 2005, Obama whined from the floor of the Illinois Senate, "They have absolute power on one side of the aisle, and that's just not what the Founders intended."
On May 23, 2005, Joe Biden screamed in the US Senate, "It's the Nuclear Option! It's ultimately an example of the arrogance of power! I pray God when the Democrats take back power we won't make the same naked power grab as the Republicans."
And on May 18, 2005, snake oil salesman Harry Reid explained that, "The Filibuster encourages moderating consensus. It gives voice to the minority so that cooler heads may prevail. It is a critical tool for keeping the majority in check." Of course, at that time his was the minority party. Now that he is the Senate Majority Leader, he's done everything in his power to cripple the Filibuster, including helping Obama engineer the use of the reconciliation process as an end-run around the Senate rules.
After the three tapes above were played, one of the TV commentators said to the host, "Thank you for establishing beyond all doubt that politicians are hypocrites." My thought on that is that we didn't need the tapes to establish that, especially with these three. I just wonder why they think they could speak on tape so vehemently against reconciliation when they were out of power, and then think they would have a shred of credibility when they use reconciliation when they're the party in power.
In case the reader is not clear on how bills become law, both Houses must pass them, and they must be signed by the president (unless Congress overrides a presidential veto). The House can pass legislation fairly quickly, because passage requires only a simple majority. But the Senate is a more deliberative body, because (as Harry Reid correctly stated in 2005) the Filibuster prevents the majority from riding roughshod over the minority. Without going into the arcane details of the Filibuster process, I'll just summarize by saying that it takes sixty votes (60%) to pass a bill in the Senate.
The exception to this is the reconciliation process described above, which, as I mentioned, is supposed to be used only for budget bills. If this process is used, this ghastly legislation can be passed with only 51 votes. That means that with absolutely no Republican support, the Democrats could pass the largest spending bill in the history of our nation, one that would impact every man, woman and child, and every business in our nation for generations. So much for Obama's "bipartisanship."
Since the poorly named health care reform legislation is only partly a budget bill, it is a violation of Senate rules for Obama and Reid to use it in the way they have threatened to use it. In fact, it is so gross a violation that it could well be overturned in a court challenge. Unfortunately, any such challenge could take years, as they well know. The Democrats would probably defend it all the way up to the US Supreme Court. By the time it was overturned, the tentacles of health care "reform" would be so deeply intertwined into our society and economy that it would be next to impossible to extricate them.
So what was the purpose of Thursday's "bipartisan" health summit? It was purely a photo op for Obama. It not bipartisan – the networks counted the time allotted to both sides, and the Democrats were given over twice as much air time as the Republicans. Worse, Obama personally spoke more than all the Republicans put together. So much for the much advertised "free and fair exchange of ideas."
After promising at least twenty times during his campaign that, "The health care debate will be shown on C-SPAN," not one minute of the deliberations was televised. And there was no debate; Republicans were totally excluded. All decisions were made in secret, mostly in the offices of Obama, Reid and Pelosi (except, of course, for the various bribes and sweetheart deals made with various Democrat legislators to buy their votes).
The only part of the entire process that was televised was the six-hour farce on Thursday. And even that was made into a complete non-event by the Internet publication of Obama's new health care plan on Monday. This plan made two things very clear: 1) The Democrat bill was the base of Obama's new plan, and therefore would not be changed; and 2) By adding another $75 Billion to the existing bill with his plan, Obama made it clear that he was not open to any cost reductions.
The bottom line: Obama called the Republicans to his house to tell them that he wasn't going to take one thing out of the monstrous bill, even though 60% of America hates it, and that in fact he was going to add billions to it. And that there wasn't a thing they could do about it, because he had all the cards. If they didn't like it, he threatened to let his dogs loose to use a sneaky parliamentary trick that he had previously condemned.
Obama's problem is that he has forgotten a couple of things. First, it's not his house. Second, every time one party has abused power the way his is doing, the American people have thrown them out. It can't happen a moment too soon.