Apparently, Nancy Pelosi thinks she’s got Americans buffaloed.
Fox News has video (see below) of Ms. Pelosi saying we have to pass the health care reform bill “so we can see what’s in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”
First of all, that’s not what I would call “transparency,” Madam Speaker. Keeping from us the details of what this legislation will do until after it’s passed is somewhat like being asked to ingest the contents of an unlabeled bottle; for all you know, it might contain cyanide.
The lack of transparency brings me to my second point. The Speakers position, as enunciated in the video, conflicts with two of the five main principles of the Rule of Law.
The five principles are:
- Generality: Laws must apply to everyone equally, and not single out groups or individuals.
- Prospectivity: Laws must apply only to future behavior, not to past action (no ex-post facto laws).
- Publicity: Laws must be publicized, so the people can be certain of their application.
- Consent: Laws must be generally acceptable to the people who will live with them.
- Due Process: Laws must impartially applied and enforced according to established laws.
Judging from Ms. Pelosi’s comments, it appears that not only does this legislation violate the principle of Publicity (we can’t know what’s in it until it passes?), it violates the principle of Consent. How are we to give consent to being subject to legislation the application of which we can’t know until it becomes law?
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich gives an excellent explanation of the Reconciliation process being tossed about in the Legislature as a way of circumventing a Republican filibuster and passing ObamaCare with a simple majority.
Harry Reid flat-out lied when he said “nobody is talking about reconciliation” as a way to pass the health care reform bill. Here he is only days before the health care summit.
Speaker Gingrich writes,
The budget reconciliation process was created in 1974 as part of the law that created much of the modern rules and organizational structures used by Congress to pass the annual budget.
This new law required Congress to pass a budget resolution every year that would set the parameters by which the various congressional committees would write their specific parts of the total budget bill.
Within these budget resolutions, instructions can be given to specific congressional committees to create legislation that would alter current laws affecting spending and/or taxation in order to conform to the targets set out in the budget resolution.
To enhance Congress’ ability to meet budget resolution targets, these pieces of legislation are not passed under the normal rules of the Senate. Instead, they fall under the “budget reconciliation process” rules which prohibit unrelated amendments to the bills and set a maximum of 20 hours of debate on the floor. As a practical matter, this means only 51 votes are needed to pass a reconciliation bill because the limit on debate overrides the threat of a filibuster.
The Byrd Rule to Prevent Abuse of Reconciliation
While the budget reconciliation process was a success in its principal goal of giving Congress more power to meet the spending and revenue goals of the budget resolution, it quickly became prone to abuse.
Provisions that had nothing to do with meeting budget resolution requirements, even some that directly contradicted them, were passed using the reconciliation process.
To prevent this, the so-called “Byrd Rule,” named after Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, who introduced the legislation, was passed in 1985 and made permanent in 1990.
The Byrd Rule allows any senator to raise a point of order objection to provisions in a reconciliation bill that they consider extraneous to meeting budget resolutions requirements. Then, it is up to the chair – either the Vice President (as President of the Senate) or, more often, the presiding officer of the Senate if the Vice President is not present — whether that provision stays or is stricken.
However, the chair almost always relies on the advice of the Senate Parliamentarian to determine if that objection is legitimate. (Learn more about the parliamentarian here.)
This determination is made based on six tests created as part of the Byrd Rule used to weed out provisions that have nothing to do with raising or reducing taxes or spending. It takes a 3/5 majority vote to override the decision of the presiding officer if he or she finds that a provision violates one or more of these tests. (This Congressional Research Service report is a good primer on the Byrd rule if you want to learn more.)
Reconciliation in Action
Reconciliation has been used for 22 bills, of which, 14 were passed by Republican majorities. Nineteen of those bills were signed into law by the President. Three were vetoed. You can view a chart of these bills here.
Notice the similarity between them? All of these bills were obviously directly related to taxation and spending, and since 1985, have successfully met the Byrd rule tests.
Health Reform Is About More than Federal Spending
This is why passing the left’s big government, big bureaucracy health bill using the budget reconciliation process is so fundamentally dishonest and dangerous to Senate precedent.
Leaving aside the bill’s merits (which, to be clear, are abysmal), both its defenders and detractors would acknowledge that it is, for better or worse, a fundamental overhaul of the nation’s health system, both public and private. It sets new rules and regulations that span the entire healthcare sector. It is much larger in scope and more all encompassing in purpose than simply affecting federal spending and revenues.
This is not to say that the bill would not have some effect on the federal budget. Almost any piece of legislation could meet that meager standard.
The reconciliation process was only intended to be used for legislation directly related to meeting budget resolution spending and revenue goals.
The minor affect the left’s health bill would have on the deficit over 10 years (beyond that there is every reason to think it would increase the deficit substantially), even by charitable estimates, cannot be used to justify passing this sort of sweeping legislation using reconciliation.
This is one reason why a number of Democrats, including Sen. Robert Byrd, author of the Byrd Rule and who also helped create the budget reconciliation process in 1974, called the idea of using it to pass the health bill (and cap and trade) “an outrage that must be resisted.”
It’s also why Robert Byrd objected to President Clinton’s efforts to pass Hillarycare in 1993 using reconciliation.
Why should the left’s latest big government healthcare grab be held to any different standard?
Liberals and Progressive Democrats are already shouting that Republicans used reconciliation to pass welfare reform. Newt’s response:
Since welfare reform was passed while I was Speaker of the House, I am happy to compare the two cases.
First, welfare reform was an integral part of the Republican Congress’ efforts to balance the budget, producing immediate savings of over $50 billion dollars between 1997 and 2002. It was originally combined with the balanced budget act that President Clinton vetoed in 1995.
By contrast, for most of the debate over the health bill, the left has constantly boasted about how their bill was “deficit neutral”. President Obama repeatedly sought to assure the American people that he would not sign a bill that “added one dime” to the deficit. Medicare cuts were combined with new taxes to pay for the cost of new programs and bureaucracies.
So while real effective health reform would certainly have a positive effect on the deficit, it is clear that the left never intended for their health bill to be primarily a budget bill. Its focus was and still is on getting more people covered. It was only after Democratic leaders began setting the stage for passing the bill using reconciliation that they began emphasizing it as a way to reduce the deficit. (Paul Ryan explains here how their bill uses smoke and mirrors to create the illusion of savings).
Second, when we decided to roll welfare reform into the balanced budget bill in 1995, we never stopped the conference committee efforts to resolve the differences between the versions of the welfare reform legislation that passed in the House and Senate earlier in the year. This continuation of work, along with the active participation of the governors, allowed us to quickly produce the final bill in conference the next year, once it became clear that President Clinton was now finally ready to sign welfare reform.
In contrast, the Democrats have done an end run around the conference committee process that would resolve the differences between the House and Senate bills, instead trying to negotiate their final bill in secret at the White House. This process continues today, with President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid exploring different tricks they can use to ram a bill through their respective chambers without first producing a conference bill.
Third, welfare reform was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, with more Democrats voting for it in the House and Senate than opposing it. It was signed by a Democratic President. Bipartisanship was integral to the success of the bill.
Today, Democrats are turning to passing the bill using the reconciliation process precisely because they are rejecting bipartisanship. Republican Scott Brown’s stunning election in Massachusetts, thanks largely to opposition to the left’s health bill, has meant that the Democrats would need at least one Republican vote to break a filibuster in the Senate. And their bill is so bad they can’t get one.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, welfare reform was overwhelmingly popular with the American people. One poll showed that over 90 percent of Americans favored reform, including 88 percent of those on welfare.
As for the left’s health bill, after a year of debate and discussion, the American people have overwhelmingly rejected it. A poll we released at the Center for Health Transformation showed that it is opposed by a 2-1 margin. It is a fact that the more Americans learn about the left’s plan, both its substance and the corrupt manner in which it has been passed, the more they oppose it.
Keep in mind that as recently as 2005, even Barack Obama was complaining that the Republican threat to use the “nuclear option” to shut down Democratic filibusters holding up judicial appointments would have created a majoritarian government not intended by the founders. But now that the shoe’s on the other foot, Majoritarianism seems to be the preferred order of the day. Back then, Republicans called Democrats “obstructionists” for filibustering the appointments of Pres. Bush’s judicial nominees, which Bush had every right to make. Now Democrats call Republicans “obstructionists” because they object to the idea of “fundamentally transforming” the American health care system. Which is worse, seating a Republican President’s judicial nominations, or usurping control of a nation’s health care system in a massive power grab that has nothing to do with health care? I think we can all see which obstruction is justifiable.
Harry Reid has strongly criticized Republicans who object to the methods being brought to bear to get Barack Obama’s health care reform package passed into law. “…realistically, they should stop crying about this. It’s been done 21 times before,” he said.
Reid is correct that it has been done before, but never has it been used on legislation that would fundamentally transform 1/6th of the American economy. Surely legislation of this magnitude should require more than just a simple majority to become the law of the land.
But that’s beside the point. In 2005, it was the Democrats who were “crying about” the use of measures to circumvent the filibuster, referred to then as the “Nuclear Option.” And Reid’s implicit accusation that Republicans did it first is disingenuous. The Republicans ended up not exercising the Nuclear Option in 2005, and Democrats have also used similar measures.
Watch the video below to see hypocrisy on parade. Joe Biden’s statement is particularly noteworthy.
Tonight’s Presidential Press Conference has been followed by some pretty good fact checking of his claims by writers from the AP (color me surprised).
A few things stand out, though.
Obama still insists on pushing the blame for the recession back onto the Bush Administration. Never does he acknowledge that his policies have had a big hand in making this collapse possible. Like every other stereotypical liberal, he is never to be blamed; he is only a victim.
In all honesty, it isn’t just Obama’s problem, or just Bush’s problem, or even just Congress’ problem alone. They all contributed to it. The problem is big government. The idea that government can do all the things that people in government think it can do is demonstrably wrong. The hard part is getting these “useful idiots” to admit it. This is Obama’s administration now. He holds the reins, and no longer has the luxury of playing Bart Simpson, trying to get a laugh by repeating “I didn’t do it.”
Another hard-to-avoid fact is that the problem he supposedly inherited was initially created by the Democratic Congress. Bush signed the bills into law, probably because he felt the Democrats had enough votes to override any veto. Frankly, I have a hard time understanding why he wouldn’t veto them out of principle. Bush’s signature added to the problem.
There is also his assertion that he has helped to save 150,000 jobs. The fact that the US economy has lost 1.2 million jobs since he took office apparently isn’t an obstacle to taking credit for any positive economic news. One very astute observation by the AP is that Obama’s claim to save jobs requires “calculating a hypothetical: how many people would have lost their jobs without the stimulus.” I can imagine lots of things, but I can’t take credit for any of it unless it is actually measurable.
Obama says we are “laying a foundation of growth.” Growth seems to be a common theme for this administration. But the only measurable growth we’ve seen so far is the growth in the deficit, growth in the amount of taxes Americans will be required to pay to overcome the deficit, and growth in the level of distrust in the people toward the government. How can we be laying a foundation for growth, when we refuse to stop spending? Even if we were capable of finding a way to cover these enormous expenses, if we don’t stop spending we will never catch up. That isn’t growth.
Some things Obama said make me plain nervous. For example, he said “My hope is that working in a bipartisan fashion we are going to be able to get a health care reform bill on my desk before the end of the year that we’ll start seeing in the kinds of investments that will make everybody healthier.” What kind of “investments” make people healthier? My thoughts are that he is talking about future legislation that would compel people into certain “healthier” lifestyles, as decided by government. The reasoning behind such legislation would be, of course, that it keeps health care costs down; a form of health care rationing–you qualify for health benefits from the government only if you meet certain government-set specifications. If that turns out to be the case, Obama will have found a way to include all races into his vision for the perfection of Humanity. That’s an aspect of socialized medicine not many have considered, and the implications are chilling.
A pattern has emerged from the first 100 days of the Obama Administration, one of high-minded, lofty goals, accompanied by a profound lack of responsibility. We can always hope the next 100 days bring real change.
I’m an asthma sufferer. I’ve had it since birth. It flares up when I get around specific allergens, like dander from horses, cats, and certain breeds of dogs. It also flares up in the cold, or when I run. My case isn’t life-threatening, but it isn’t fun either.
For example, I cannot go visit my in-laws, my sister, or some of my friends unless I am willing to deal with asthma for a week afterward; they all have dogs or cats. I can’t run any appreciable distance. If I go camping, I have to take an inhaler, just in case.
The inhalant I have found to be very effective is the tried-and-true albuterol inhaler. It typically cost me about $25.00 and would sometimes last more than a year. But beginning Jan. 1, 2009, that inhaler will no longer be legal to sell in the US. You see, the CFCs used as a propellant are allegedly destroying the ozone layer.
Never mind the fact that the hole we have supposedly created in the ozone layer comes and goes on its own from year to year, and appears to repair itself. Never mind that the hole in the ozone layer only appears above the only unpopulated continent on the face of the planet. Never mind that the amount of CFCs used to propel albuterol is environmentally insignificant now that CFCs have been banned in everything else. The pretend hole in the ozone layer is more important than the health and well-being of the people on this planet.
The new inhaler is not even half the size of the old one. Why? Because they don’t want the public to spend more money than they did before. That might arouse suspicion. So now you are paying about twice as much as you were before for medication that, for some people, is necessary to preserve life.
Who is hurt the most by this change in price? The poor people. Asthma does not distinguish between rich or poor. And in fact, if you are in a lower income tax bracket, you will likely receive less treatment for asthma than someone in a higher bracket. Poor people tend to not have insurance, and so have to pay on their own. They will be even less able to pay for the inhalant now than they used to be.
Did you ever wonder why the Left in America is so adamant that we must provide free health care to everyone? There are a couple of reasons. First is to assuage their guilt. They know perfectly well that their policies affect people financially, and they know that people of lesser income are most deeply affected by those policies. Therefore, they devise programs to make up for the harm they would otherwise be causing people, which is the second reason: to provide cover for their bad policies. Once their guilt has been satisfied, they can proceed to subject everyone else to the tyranny that results from their oppressive and draconian regulations. There is no good liberal policy. All policies emanating from the Left are designed to hurt people in at least one way. The frightening part is that the Left never seems to be able to see the consequences of their policies before they are put into action.
So, with this new inhaler will come new efforts to bring health care under the umbrella of government “services.” There are already reports of people being sensitive to the new medication, and thus unable to take it. The inhaler must be meticulously cleaned after each use to prevent a build-up of medication in the nozzle, which would then prevent the medication from being dispensed. That was not a problem with the old inhaler. Furthermore, the drug companies were forced into investing their money in these new products against their will by the government. So much for free enterprise.
Unless I miss my guess, the old inhaler will still be available outside the US. If I want what works, I will just have to go to Mexico to get it. Unfortunately, most of the people who need this medication the most won’t be able to afford the trip to get it. I predict a rise in asthma-related deaths in the next two years. Who will be to blame? The American Left, specifically the enviro-fascist wing.
What I am left wondering is, when all the CFCs have been banned, and the hole in the ozone continues to behave as it now does, can we then finally put them all on trial for crimes against humanity?
The democrats are in an uproar today over Karl Rove’s refusal to testify before Congress regarding the firing of 8 federal prosecutors. He even has the audacity to ignore the Democrats’ subpoena!
Apparently, harassing a former political aide of a President who cannot be re-elected in a shameful attempt to uncover pretended improprieties is more important to the country than fixing our energy problem, or our spending problem, or even tort reform as it relates to our health care problem.
Pres. Bush did nothing wrong by firing those prosecutors. He has complete liberty to do so for any reason, or for no reason. The democrats happily ignore the fact the Pres. Clinton fired all 93 federal prosecutors while he was in office. Where were the Republican investigations? There were none!
The democrats are complaining about the prosecution of democratic
We really need to send these weasels home. They need real jobs.