Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, History, Politics, War on Terror, health care reform — Rick Moran @ 10:03 am

Just when you think you’ve seen just about everything in politics, one party or the other bites you in the ass to let you know that authoritarian tactics fit easily and comfortably over the democratic template laid down by the Founders.

It really is seamless at times. Witness the Tom DeLay move to keep the vote on the Medicare drug benefit open for hours (the rules say 15 minutes) while he and Hastert twisted arms, legs, and probably some more private parts of the bodies of GOP members in order to get the votes necessary for passage.

True, a minor glitch in the democratic process - just a little authoritarianism where rules are broken willy nilly for the sake of the momentary goal. There are other examples from the time the GOP ruled the roost in the House and DeLay was a power unto himself. A junior Mussolini that one, complete with the strutting kind of arrogance so beloved of Il Duce.

But nothing in my more than 30 years of observing politics could prepare me for what the Democrats may end up doing in order to pass health care reform:

The twisted scheme by which Democratic leaders plan to bend the rules to ram President Obama’s massive health care legislation through Congress now has a name: the Slaughter Solution.

The Slaughter Solution is a plan by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the Democratic chair of the powerful House Rules Committee and a key ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), to get the health care legislation through the House without an actual vote on the Senate-passed health care bill. You see, Democratic leaders currently lack the votes needed to pass the Senate health care bill through the House. Under Slaughter’s scheme, Democratic leaders will overcome this problem by simply “deeming” the Senate bill passed in the House - without an actual vote by members of the House.

So is this just a partisan take on the matter? They can’t really be serious about passing health care reform by waving a magic gavel, could they?

There is a serious lack of reaction to this story on the left. Perhaps their email list hasn’t been able to reach a consensus on how to respond yet. Maybe they’re as taken aback by the breathtaking, undemocratic nature of the ploy as most of the rest of the planet. John Dickerson of Slate - no flaming liberal but hardly a man of the right - matter of factly lays out the scheme, appearing to applaud its utilitarian nature:

One method for accommodating the situation (first reported in CongressDaily) would allow the House to vote on the Bill B and, after doing so, simply consider the Senate health care bill (Bill A) as passed. There would be no actual up-or-down vote on the underlying bill. This would be the legislative equivalent of the economist’s old trick of assuming a can opener.

Actually, it’s an economist’s old joke, John, not a trick - which I suppose is quite revealing of how seriously you take the idea of the Democrats passing a bill that will affect 300 million Americans and fundamentally alter the relationship between the citizen and the government, and not allow members to express their preference in an up or down vote.

But, of course, that’s the point of this little whiff of Politburo politics; it’s to allow Democratic members to lie through their teeth to their constituents:

This approach would serve two purposes. First, Democrats who think the Senate bill doesn’t sufficiently limit abortion rights would never have to be on record as having voted for it. (Because the Senate abortion language can’t be fixed in Bill B for procedural reasons, some Democratic aides say there is talk about a later bill that would handle these issues.) Second, if the Senate didn’t fulfill its end of the bargain by voting on Bill B—remember, it’s already passed Bill A—then House Democrats would be able to say: I never voted for that crummy Bill A. In fact, I only voted for that nifty Bill B to fix it.

I mentioned this is Politburo politics, which is actually an insult to the commies. At least they have a rigged vote. We don’t even get that on Obamacare.

I think it fairly obvious that Nancy Pelosi does not have the votes, and likely will never get the votes, to pass the senate bill as is. Firedoglake has the latest whip count (based on publicly stated positions) at 191-195 meaning Pelosi needs a near miracle. She needs 24 votes of the remaining 40 “persuadables” to win. And they wouldn’t be talking about “deeming” a bill as passed if she thought there was any hope of achieving 216.

The real sticking point, ironically, is that House Democrats don’t trust their colleagues in the senate to follow through and take them off the hook by ramming House Obamacare amendments through via reconciliation. In fact, the GOP is talking about a weird ploy of their own; they may vote with pro-choice Democrats in the senate to kill any change in the abortion language wanted by Stupak and his gang of 12. If they’re serious, that alone might trigger a revolt among House members who don’t think the senate is serious about reconciliation.

I’m actually excited to see the Democrats try this. What are all those good government liberals going to say? How is the White House going to spin this as a victory for the people when the people’s representatives haven’t even been consulted on the final product?

What are the voters going to think? I don’t think much at all. This is far too arcane a topic to interest anyone but process junkies. By November, the Democrats will have dressed this pig up in a nice prom dress, smeared some lipstick on the porker, and presented it to the American people as a triumph. Many will shrug their shoulders, accept what government is giving them, and move on with their lives.

Voters are going to be a lot more upset with Democrats about jobs and the economy than they will ever get upset with them about how they managed to move this monstrosity through Congress and get it signed into law. But those who might take a dimmer view of this tactic will lament the loss of the fundamental fairness to the minority it represents. We now officially have a tyranny of the majority.

I hope the Democrats don’t complain too much when Republicans pull crap like this on them when they’re back in power.

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