Free Markets, Free People

Greg Sargent

Health Care Reform – Passage Now An Exercise In Pure Politics And Power

Yesterday we learned that the Congressional Democratic leadership has no intention of following it’s own procedures in order to get the unpopular “health care reform” bill passed:

Now that both the House and Senate have passed health care reform bills, all Democrats have to do is work out a compromise between the two versions. And it appears they’re not about to let the Republicans gum up the works again.

According to a pair of senior Capitol Hill staffers, one from each chamber, House and Senate Democrats are “almost certain” to negotiate informally rather than convene a formal conference committee. Doing so would allow Democrats to avoid a series of procedural steps–not least among them, a series of special motions in the Senate, each requiring a vote with full debate–that Republicans could use to stall deliberations, just as they did in November and December.

“There will almost certainly be full negotiations but no formal conference,” the House staffer says. “There are too many procedural hurdles to go the formal conference route in the Senate.”

Of course the obvious implication of Jonathan Cohn’s report is that they’re doing so to avoid “procedural hurdles” with which Republicans will “gum up the works”. I.e. – the procedure that has been agreed upon for centuries to meld House and Senate versions into a single bill and allow proper debate of the particulars will be thrown out the window in an effort to deny Republicans a chance to challenge the legislation and attempt to modify it or defeat it.

But, it turns out, it isn’t only Republicans they’re interested in denying a say. The Progressive Caucus in the House is none too happy with the development either. Remember, they want a stronger bill which included the public option. And they, like Republicans, would be denied the opportunity to have their say should this plan to “informally” negotiate the bill be undertaken. That has prompted Rep Raul Grijalva, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to issue the following statement:

“I am disappointed that there will be no formal conference process by which various constituencies can impact the discussion. I have not been approached about my concerns with the Senate bill, and I will be raising those at the Democratic Caucus meeting on Thursday. I and other progressives saw a conference as a means to improve the bill and have a real debate, and now with this behind-the-scenes approach, we’re concerned even more.”

Greg Sargent claims that “many expect House liberals to ultimately support the plan no matter how this process plays out.”

Of course they do – it is at least a step in the direction that liberals want, single payer so this is a calculated political risk.  It can be added too incrementally to get there, or at least that’s what is being sold. That’s not at all a hollow promise as we’ve seen with programs like Medicare, SCHIP and Medicaid.

So it is indeed possible that is how this situation will play out. But it is also possible that Republican gains in 2010 and beyond will block further incremental additions such as a public option, etc – at least for a while. So Sargent wonders if, in fact, this shutting out of the Progressive Caucus may not be a bridge too far, assuming it isn’t eventally included in the “informal negotiations” and given some of what they demand:

But House progressives are already infuriated by the multiple concessions they’ve been forced to make, and cutting them out of the process could only bruise feelings more and harden their resolve to hold the line against the eventual compromise.

We’ll see – meanwhile this unpopular monstrosity moves forward as only it can – through procedural tricks which avoid debate and the use of raw power. Remember, once it becomes law (whatever shape “it” is in when that happens) it becomes almost impossible to repeal. The time to stop it is now. But it appears our “representatives” in power have absolutely no desire to let the people’s will have any effect on this naked power grab and will use any means necessary to pass it. This is something the Democrats have wanted for decades and they’re going to get it whether you like it or not. Politics and party rule the day.