Cheating the Political Death Panel
In their quest to pass health care reform legislation, Democrats have been cheating death, robbing Peter to pay Paul, taking candy from babies, lying through their teeth, moving the goalposts, and burning the candle at both ends. It is about to catch up with them.
If I were an editorial cartoonist, I’d depict Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi as Tarzan and Jane, swinging through the forest, dangling a ragtag bundle of Congressional Democrats in a net trap, eking their way from one tree to the next as each vine snaps behind them, nearly sending them to their death in the jaws of lions below.
Here are a few of the nine lives Congressional Democrats have used up in recent months:
(1) The House version of the bill passed in a squeaker of a vote, 220-215, three weeks ago. Two Democrats voting the other way would have killed the bill (not 3, since Republican Representative Joseph Cao cast his vote for the bill only once he was sure it would pass without him).
(2) The Senate agreed to begin debate on its version of the bill in another squeaker of a vote this weekend, which was preceded by a $300,000,000 payoff to Senator Mary Landrieu for Louisiana (thanks for the revised figure, Mary!). As Dana Milbank noted, this sum is 20 times the price of the original Louisiana Purchase, which at least bought us 14 states. As The New York Post observed, based on Louisiana Representative William Jefferson’s recent 13-year sentence for accepting a $100,000 bribe, Landrieu should spend the next 39,000 years in jail.
(3) Pelosi violated her pledge to post the final version of any legislation online for 72 hours. Instead, she and Reid have been finishing their handiwork on Friday night and ramming through their votes on Saturday night. Defeating these bills would be hard enough if the public had time to digest them and hold politicians accountable for supporting them, but now congressmen can claim they were unaware of ornery provisions slipped in at the last minute, because they were unable to speed-read 300 pages of legalese an hour.
(4) Leaders of both houses have been inserting, modifying, watering down, or removing passages to get approval for the bill (the House) or for beginning debate (the Senate), when they know full well that crucial blocs of defectors will never vote for current legislation in the final vote. These holdouts will demand that all of these changes be unmade, which will cause even larger chunks of the Democrats’ fragile majorities to drift away. For example, Pelosi banned federal funding of abortions in the House bill, a restriction that a dozen representatives will never accept in the final bill. Reid reinserted in the Senate bill a public option, which had been absent from all committee versions, when he knows that every Republican and at least four Democrats would filibuster a vote on such a bill.
(5) Reid bought holdout votes from centrist Democrats by making minor concessions tailored to their districts’ concerns. To support the final bill, these and other Democrats are demanding much bigger concessions, which conflict with each other and with demands made by those in the House. It is not physically possible to satisfy all of these lawmakers’ requirements at once, which is why Reid and Pelosi have barely been able to do it with 12 different versions of the bill over several months.
(6) Democrats are willing to slash funding for Medicare, which Jay Cost calls “the most significant fiscal policy ‘achievement’ of the Democratic Party in the last seventy years” [scare quotes mine]. Doing so has cost them the support of seniors, who oppose the bill even more comprehensively than the general public.
(7) Rasmussen reported on Monday that support for the bill has fallen to a new low—38%. Some Senators have been jeopardizing their reelection in 2010 by their support for their bill, and at least one—junior Senator Michael Bennet—has been bragging about this fact.
(8) Senator Chuck Schumer is now resorting to bald-faced threats, which should go over wonderfully with the public; recently he declared on behalf of all of Congress, “We’re not going to not pass a bill.”
All of this is already catching up with Democrats; witness the retreat of Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, who voted not to allow debate on Reid’s bill to proceed, when formerly she had been trumpeted as giving the bill a bipartisan veneer by supporting the Senate Finance Committee’s version. Democrats think they can pass a bill by tossing concessions left and right to keep the ball rolling through each stage, but their momentum is eventually going to grind to a halt.
On a more general note, anyone trying to do something impossible—in this case, have government take over a sixth of the economy and provide better, more widespread care at lower costs than the private sector, with no sacrifices required—necessarily fights the harder battle, because reality is not on his side. Republicans, as ineffective and mealy-mouthed as some of them have been in making the case against Congress’s bill, possess the inherent advantage of having the truth on their side. The American people and a vigilant alternative media can discover the truth on their own if no one else will.
Congressional Democrats up for reelection next year for one of 535 seats are about to experience a whole new type of rationing.