Free Markets, Free People

Senate

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 18 Jul 10

In this podcast, Bruce and Dale discuss the dissatisfaction about President Obama’s competence, the oil spill, and the American stranded in Egypt.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Charlie Crist to launch independent Senate Run

Apparently, Charlie Crist has convinced himself that the people of Florida desire his leadership keenly, despite taking a vicious hammering in the polls for the Republican nomination. So, he’ll be announcing an independent run for US Senator.

Stick a fork in him. He’s done. The Republicans will henceforth treat him as if he has a case of virulent Ebola and herpes. I’ve got no clue where he’s going to get financing from.

The best he can do is split the Republican vote, and ensure a Democrat gets elected. If that happens he’ll be like a new Arlen Specter, except for being even more of a loser.

Health care reform: So where are we on the vote?

David Dayden at FDL has it as 190 “yes”, 205 “no” (with leaners 202- 207).  That down one from the last whip count on the “yes” side and puts Obama and Pelosi about 14 short with leaners.  Democrat Bart Stupak thinks they’re 16 votes short.

Republican Representative David Dreier puts it at slighly less needed on the yes side:

In a press conference on Capitol Hill today, Rep. David Dreier (R., Calif.), ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee, said the word around the House is that Democrats are still about 10 votes away from securing the 216 they will need to pass changes to the health-care bill. Dreier added that that number might be moving in the wrong direction for Democrats.

It’s possible (see FDL count) it’s moving in the wrong direction, but, as always the disclaimer that these numbers are quite fluid and could literally change in a second or in accordance with how hard a particular arm is being twisted or how much of the moon they’re being promised for their vote.  I’d say they’re in the 10-12 vote short neighborhood given the reports above.

Be that as it may, Pelosi and company are exploring all the contingencies:

The House would vote on a more popular package of fixes to the Senate bill; under the House rule for that vote, passage would signify that lawmakers “deem” the health-care bill to be passed.

The tactic — known as a “self-executing rule” or a “deem and pass” — has been commonly used, although never to pass legislation as momentous as the $875 billion health-care bill. It is one of three options that Pelosi said she is considering for a late-week House vote, but she added that she prefers it because it would politically protect lawmakers who are reluctant to publicly support the measure.

“It’s more insider and process-oriented than most people want to know,” the speaker said in a roundtable discussion with bloggers Monday. “But I like it,” she said, “because people don’t have to vote on the Senate bill.”

This is Pelosi’s fix for the kamakazi role she’s asked many of the members of Congress to take on the HCR package. But, according to the article cited in the WaPo this would apply to the package of fixes they want the Senate to undertake when and if she’s able to push the Senate bill through the House. The article then hints it may be used on the full Senate bill as well. The use of the rule only makes sense (if the intent is to hide who voted for it) if it is used on the full Senate version now pending in the House. It is that bill which promises problems for Democrats in November if passed with their names attached.

Democrats have convinced themselves that the American people aren’t intrested in “process”. That is, they don’t care how they get it done, they just want to see it done. We’ve heard Obama echo this point as well as both Reid and Pelosi. But we’ve also heard them whine about an “up or down” vote, as in “American’s deserve an up or down vote”. Apparently not so much any more.

As for hiding the vote, it seems to be contrary to the Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 7):

But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively.

The argument, of course, is the House has the power to write it’s own procedural rules, but it doesn’t have the power to set aside the procedural rules the Constitution imposes. This would seem to be a blatant attempt to do just that.

But more than anything, it signals that the House leadership may be reaching the conclusion that trying to get 216 votes is a bridge too far. Pelosi wants this done this week. If you see it show up on the floor and this procedure introduced, you’ll know they don’t have the votes. You’ll also know that “America” is not going to get the “up or down vote” that Obama and Pelosi called for either.

~McQ

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Reconciliation — It’s Alive? (UPDATED – Dead Again?)

Seems my skepticism yesterday was warranted. According to Politico sources, the Senate parliamentarian ruling announced by the GOP yesterday may have been “misinterpreted”:

Senate Republicans caused a major stir Thursday when they told reporters that the parliamentarian had informed them that the Senate bill needed to be signed into law before lawmakers took up a sidecar bill to fix it.

[…]

But according to reporting by POLITICO’s David Rogers, the accounts aren’t accurate and misconstrue what the Senate parliamentarians have said. That is that reconciliation must amend law but this could be done without the Senate bill being enacted first. “It is wholly possible to create law and qualify law before the law is on the books,” said one person familiar with situation.

For example, if the big bill itself amends some Social Security statute, reconciliation could be written to do the same –with changes sought by the House. Then if reconciliation is passed and signed by President Barack Obama after he signs the larger bill, the changes made in reconciliation would prevail.
This jives with what Pulse sources were saying soon after the first wave of stories hit – in essence, don’t take the reported parliamentarian’s declaration to the bank.

If this report is correct (and there are some issues with it explained below), then we are essentially in the “Yes, No” scenario:

Should the parliamentarians decide that the House must pass the Senate bill, but that the president does not have to sign prior to the reconciliation bill being considered, then the House can basically hold the Senate bill hostage while working on the fixes. It’s not entirely clear how long Pelosi could do this (how soon after voting does she have to enroll the bill? What about the ten-day limits re passage/”pocket veto”?). However, it would enable to the House to get a reconciliation bill through the Senate before sending the Senate bill to Obama, thus ensuring that whatever happens during reconciliation doesn’t undermine any Representative’s “yes” vote.

I always thought that this was the most likely scenario, but not being an expert in these matters I couldn’t, and still can’t, say for sure.

Yet, something from the Politico piece strikes me as a bit off, constitutionally speaking. Specifically, this quote (bolded below) doesn’t make any sense:

That is that reconciliation must amend law but this could be done without the Senate bill being enacted first. “It is wholly possible to create law and qualify law before the law is on the books,” said one person familiar with situation.

I am almost certain that this is not correct. The Constitution is pretty clear on this matter:

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; …

Art. I, Sect. 7 (emphasis added)

Perhaps the anonymous source for Politico was just being careless in choice of words, and what he/she really meant was that a bill does not necessarily have to become law before it is subjected to the reconciliation process. That may be true, and that was part of what the parliamentarians were asked to rule upon. But there simply is no question that a bill, before it can become a “Law,” must be signed by the President.

In any event, provided that the Politico reporting is correct (and I think it may be), then there is still the possibility of reconciliation being used to pass ObamaCare. However, there are still a number of problems.

Bruce broke down the numbers for you this morning, which gives everyone a good sense of what the reconciliation bill, as passed by the Senate, must look like in order to get the Senate bill passed in the House. Again, whether or not the “fixes” required by House members to get their vote will actually survive the Byrd Rule part of the reconciliation process is a huge question. In addition, Republicans will have other means of attacking the bill, such as challenging its long-term budget effect which could scuttle the entire thing. So, not only do the wavering House members need to be assured that the Senate will vote for their fixes in the reconciliation bill, they also have to know that those fixes will survive the process, and that the reconciliation bill as a whole will be capable of being passed under the budgetary constraints peculiar to such legislation. That’s a whole lot of “if’s” that need to be answered before the Senate bill comes to the floor for a vote.

The only thing that is immediately clear in all of this is that Democrats have absolutely zero respect for the Constitution, democratic principles, or this republic. They sure as hell don’t give a damn about Americans. No matter what the parliamentarians rule, I still expect Pelosi and Reid to jam something down our gullets and indignantly demand that we thank them for it.

UPDATE: It seems as though the House leadership agrees with the GOP interpretation of the Senate parliamentarian:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) today acknowledged that the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling precludes the House from passing reconciliation fixes to health-care without first passing the Senate bill. Pelosi told reporters she will do just that:

“The bills that have passed, ours with 220 in the House, theirs with 60 in the Senate, we’ll be acting upon the Senate bill with changes that were in the House bill reflected in the reconciliation. So in order to have the Senate bill be the basis and build upon it with the reconciliation, you have to pass the Senate bill, or else you’re talking about starting from scratch. So we will pass the Senate bill. Once we pass it, the President signs it or doesn’t, it’s – people would rather he waited until the Senate acted, but the Senate Parliamentarian, as you have said, said in order for them to do a reconciliation based on the Senate bill, it must be signed by the President.”

Steny Hoyer offered a similar conclusion:

Separately, on the House floor today, Eric Cantor pressed Steny Hoyer on the issue, asking Hoyer whether it’s his position that the Senate bill “must be signed into law before the Senate can even take up the reconciliation package.”

“I think the gentleman correctly states the Senate parliamentarian’s position,” Hoyer replied.

For those keeping score, we went from “Yes, Yes” to “Yes, No” back to “Yes, Yes” and all the while Pelosi is insisting that ObamaCare will be passed. Soon. Very, very soon. Which probably means that the Slaughter Rule will brought into the game … and I just can’t even fathom how that sort of extra-constitutional procedure will play out. This is getting more confusing than wearing a mirror-suit in a house full of mirrors.

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Reconciliation Dead For Good?

Yesterday it was reported that the House and Senate parliamentarians were asked to rule on what exactly the process needed to be for a reconciliation bill to get passed regarding ObamaCare. As I stated, also yesterday, if the answers to the questions, does the House have to pass the Senate bill and does Pres. Obama have to sign it before the reconciliation bill can be considered, are “Yes, Yes” then ObamaCare is officially dead:

In this scenario, the House would have to trust the Senate to agree to its fixes, that such fixes get through the reconciliation process, and that Obama signs them into law. Meanwhile, a perfectly functional health care law will be on the books which achieves what the Senate Democrats wanted, and what Obama has staked his entire presidency upon. That would require a great deal of faith.

I don’t think the progressive caucus, the Stupak group, or many other Representatives have anywhere near that much faith in the Senate and/or Obama. And if this reporting by Roll Call is accurate, they’re going to need a whole mess of it:

The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package, senior GOP sources said Thursday.

The Senate Parliamentarian’s Office was responding to questions posed by the Republican leadership. The answers were provided verbally, sources said.

House Democratic leaders have been searching for a way to ensure that any move they make to approve the Senate-passed $871 billion health care reform bill is followed by Senate action on a reconciliation package of adjustments to the original bill. One idea is to have the House and Senate act on reconciliation prior to House action on the Senate’s original health care bill.

Information Republicans say they have received from the Senate Parliamentarian’s Office eliminates that option.

Yes, Yes We Can’t!

[HT: Neo]

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Screw Bi-Partisanship: King Harry Reid Edition

Bi-partisanship has become the new battle cry of the left, at least for PR purposes.  They no longer have the power to pass anything without at least one Republican vote in the Senate.  So instead of purposely excluding Republicans as they have for a year (and blaming their own failings on GOP “obstructionism”) they now have to make a show of calling for bi-partisanship and hope they’ll be able to pick off at least one hapless GOP Senator.  If they don’t, then they can again blame the Republicans for “obstruction” instead of their failure to find a suitable compromise necessary to pass the legislation in question.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Pluto) did the GOP a favor, although I’m sure Republicans don’t realize it yet. He shot down a “jobs bill” that was the result of bi-partisan work by Democratic Senator Max Baucus and Republican Senator Charles Grassley.

Cost? Over $100 billion. Contents – Pension bailouts, handouts for chicken farmers in Arkansas, an extension of the anti-terror Patriot Act, and a number of other little goodies. Had that bill passed, Republicans would have again earned the derision of the public for “not getting it”. It would be seen as “business as usual” despite the expressed anger of the public over such handouts, bailouts and deficit spending.

Reid instead has decided to unilaterally rewrite the bill to include only 4 things:

* A new tax credit for hiring workers
* Extra money for highway projects
* Small Business tax breaks
* Build America Bonds

The price tag? A reported $15 billion dollars. The reaction from most of the left and the Paul Krugman’s of the world is going to be brutal. Of course the Blanche Lincoln “reelect me” aid to Arkansas chicken farmers, the Chuckie Schumer Pension Bailout along with all the other goodies that made up the remaining $85 billion in the original bill aren’t going away. They’ll be considered in different legislation. That’s to say, no one in the Senate seems to have listened to a thing the polls or public have been hammering them about for months. It is indeed business as usual.

Let’s be clear here, though. Harry Reid want’s a “clean bill” on this not because he’s changing his ways, not because that’s what the American people want and not because he’s a smart politician.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is rewriting a jobs bill after Democrats complained of too many concessions to Republicans.

Yeah, that’s right – King Harry just saved the Republicans from themselves (at least for the moment). You see, there was just too much of that bi-partisanship stuff.

~McQ

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Quote Of The Day: Queen Nancy’s Logic Edition

Nancy Pelosi, not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, explains why the 60 vote majority in the Senate is “unconstitutional”:

“A constitutional majority is 51 votes,” Pelosi said in an interview Tuesday with Roll Call. “If in fact the Republicans are going to say nothing can be done except by 60 percent, then maybe we all should be elected with 60 percent. It isn’t legitimate in terms of passing legislation.”

Conveniently missing in this romp through the illogical is the fact that a “majority” in the Senate is whatever the Senate rules say it is – and that’s a power left to them by the Constitution. In fact, to change this rule, the Senate requires 67 votes or a 2/3rds majority. I assume Ms. Pelosi would find that “unconstitutional” as well.  Just another, albeit a fairly pathetic one, in an increasing number of assaults on the filibuster by Democrats who understand that they either have to actually be bi-partisan now or change the rules.

Guess which they opt for?

Isn’t also ironic when “Justice” Pelosi cites the Constitution incorrectly as a means to push a blatantly unconstitutional health care bill through?

Anyway, remember to wish long lives and good health to Barack Obama and Joe Biden. As bad as they are, Pelosi being 3 heartbeats away from the Oval Office necessitates those good wishes.

~McQ

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So Let’s Say Scott Brown Wins …

I’d say, given all I’ve read and heard pertaining to the polls, that a win by Brown in today’s special Senatorial election in Massachusetts is a pretty solid prediction. But polls have been wrong before. With that said, I think he will pull it off even if only by a point or two.

So what can we expect if that’s the case. 364 days after Barack Obama took office and in what Democrats figured was their seat forever given it had belonged to the “Liberal Lion” of the Senate in deep blue and solidly dependable Massachusetts a Republican wins the seat?

What will be the reaction and what are the implications?

According to Politico, President Obama’s reaction to such a win will be to “fight hard”. Nice words for a pep rally.But if Brown wins, fighting hard will be about all that’s left to Obama as the filibuster proof majority in the Senate will have gone up in smoke. And that, of course puts his entire ambitious agenda, to include the pending health care bill, in jeopardy.

A potential casualty: the health care bill that was to be the crowning achievement of the president’s first year in office.

The health care backdrop has given the White House a strong incentive to strike a defiant posture, at least rhetorically, in response to what would be an undeniable embarrassment for the president and his party.

Anyone who continues to pretend this isn’t an election with far reaching implications and a referendum on the agenda pushed by the President and Congressional Democrats needs to again review the place in which this Republican is leading. Those who would like to put it all on an unattractive candidate need to remember that candidate blew away her closest rival in a Democratic primary by 19 points. This isn’t just about Martha Coakley.

An upset by Republican Scott Brown would be covered in many quarters as a repudiation of Obama, especially after Obama’s last-ditch campaign appearance with Coakley 36 hours before the polls opened.

This is about an electorate that is increasingly uneasy about the path the federal government under the Democrats is taking. This is a reaction to the action of the last 364 days. And the timing couldn’t be any better:

A Massachusetts embarrassment would strongly increase the pressure Obama was already facing to retreat or slow down the “big bang” agenda he laid out a year ago.

That includes cap-and-trade, which Congressional Democrats are backing away from as quickly as they can, and immigration. What this should force, if Democrats can swallow the lesson and heed the consequences of a Brown win, is a shelving of those issues and a concentration on the economy like a “laser beam”.

The possibility that Democrats could avoid a blood bath in November is iffy at the moment but salvageable if they do that. If, however, they get combative and attempt to ram through the present agenda (as it appears they will) while continuing to giving lip service to the economy and job creation (shall we have another “job summit”?), then they’ll suffer the consequences in mid-terms 10 months from now.

Today’s election is a game changer. Even if Brown loses, the message should be clear – back off the spending and expansion of government, concentrate on the economy and do what is necessary to get this country moving again economically, or the voters will put people in who will, even in deep blue Massachusetts.

The polls opened 12 minutes ago – this should be a very interesting day.

~McQ

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Coakley Losing? It’s Bush’s Fault

Let’s start our week of with the irony impaired. In this case it is Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), explaining why Democrat Martha Coakley – or as he referred to her, “Marcia Coakley” – is in trouble in the Massachusetts Senate Race:

“If you think there’s magic out there and things can be turned around overnight, then you would vote for someone who could promise you that, like Scott Brown,” Kennedy said. “If you don’t, if you know that it takes eight years for George Bush and his cronies to put our country into this hole … then you know we have a lot of digging to do, but some work needs to be done and this president’s in the process of doing it and we need to get Marcia Coakley to help him to do that.”

On to the irony:

“One thing the Democrats have done wrong? We haven’t kept the focus on this disaster on the Republicans who brought it upon us. We’ve tried too hard to do that right thing, and that’s to fix it, as opposed to spend more of our time and energy pointing the finger at who got us [here] in the first place.”

You can’t make this stuff up, folks. Of course one of the reasons this election is a referendum on Democrats in general is because the public at large mostly thinks they haven’t focused on that which is important – employment and the economy – but instead squandered their time on the less important, such as health care reform and cap-and-trade. As for the irony of claiming they haven’t spent any time and energy pointing the finger at others, blaming George Bush is a cottage industry among the Democrats, who spend days finding new and more entertaining ways to blame him for all their woes.

Whether or not Scott Brown ends up winning in Massachusetts on Tuesday, this is as obvious a wake-up call for Democrats as one can issue. Even the NY Times recognizes what’s going on:

This weekend, Democrats are struggling to hang on to a seat held by Mr. Kennedy for 46 years in one of the most enthusiastically Democratic states in the country. Conservatives are enjoying a grass-roots resurgence, and Republicans are talking about taking back the House in November.

As Mr. Obama prepares to come here on Sunday to campaign for the party’s beleaguered Senate candidate, Martha Coakley, Democrats across the country are starting to wonder aloud if they misjudged the electorate over the last year, with profound ramifications for the midterm elections this year and, potentially, for Mr. Obama’s presidency.

The most certainly did misjudge the electorate, because the nation’s situation changed late in the campaign. When it became clear that the economy was in trouble and unemployment was rising, that and not the liberal Democratic agenda, should have become priority one. But it wasn’t. They consciously chose to place the party’s agenda before the nation’s needs and have blindly pursued that agenda in the face of a continuing economic downturn.  That has placed them in the position they now occupy – out of touch, running out of time and facing a political bloodbath in November. It was a calculated risk, counting on swift passage of the agenda items, which hasn’t materialized. And, no matter how persistently and consistently they attempt to blame everything on Bush, that opportunity expired many months ago.

This is now about the Democrats and Obama and whether they like it or not the Senate race in Massachusetts is a referendum on their performance to date.

~McQ

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“Health Care Reform” Passes The Senate, Lady Liberty Passes Out

As I and others have been saying when this legislative process began, the Democrats are going to pass something and call it “health care reform”. The absolute best that can be said about this abomination of a bill just passed in the Senate is they’ve managed that.

In every measure possible, this became about politics, not the people. It clearly degenerated from a goal some considered worthy (and others considered beyond the scope of government and wasteful) to simply an exercise in raw power with an aim at producing anything they could label as reform.

Well, apparently we have it. The New York Times reports:

The Senate voted Thursday to reinvent the nation’s health care system, passing a bill to guarantee access to health insurance for tens of millions of Americans and to rein in health costs as proposed by President Obama.

Or course the bill doesn’t provide insurance for other tens of millions (but it does provide fines or jail for them if they don’t get it) – the supposed original purpose of the legislation.  And the NYT doesn’t report that President Obama, on the day that he signs the bill, will break yet another vow about refusing to sign anything that bends the health care cost curve up. In a disgraceful gaming of the system, Democrats used the 10 year window within which the CBO is statutorily required to work (and other machinations) to present a false picture to the American people of the cost of this monstrosity. And when President Obama signs it into law, he will know full well that he’s breaking his word and has set the future of American health care on a steeper path to insolvency.

This bill belongs solely to the Democrats as Olympia Snowe, the Republican most likely to be picked off by Democrats in any effort to make the process “bi-partisan” attests:

“I was extremely disappointed,” Ms. Snowe said. After Senate Democrats locked up 60 votes within their caucus, she said, “there was zero opportunity to amend the bill or modify it, and Democrats had no incentive to reach across the aisle.”

It also made an absolute travesty of the legislative process – a bill concocted in secret by the Senate Majority Leader, unavailable to other Senators until very late in the process and, of course, leaving no time to carefully read, consider or debate what was in it. Bribes for votes were blatantly written in to the bill. As one person noted, when you bribe a public official, usually you use your own money. Harry Reid bribed public officials using our money.

It was a pathetic and disgusting performance by the supposed “greatest deliberative body on earth”. There was no deliberation. Raw politics shoved a grossly costly, freedom limiting bureaucratic nightmare which we can’t afford through based on bribes and politics. Even David Broder wondered how you celebrated this mess, asking “how do you applaud while holding your nose?” Everyone who voted “yes” for this, and especially those who engineered its passage in the manner they did, should hang their head in abject shame. They made a mockery of a system set up to serve the people and instead made it a slave to party politics.

And, as Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog notes, even the silver lining isn’t so shiny:

The bad news: The Democrats are going to pass a half-baked mess of health care insurance changes. Several opponents of the bill are saying there is a silver lining — that this will allow Republicans, who did such a bang-up job when they last controlled Congress and the Presidency, to get back in power. Color me less than excited.

We’ve all been badly served by this government and these political parties. This legislation is a culmination of a decades long process, participated in by both Republicans and Democrats alike, which has essentially turned a liberty loving people into serfs who are answerable too and controlled by an ever increasingly powerful and intrusive government.

Richard Fernandez, at Belmont Club, uses the Detroit and California as the inevitable ends of this sort of “governing” and wonders:

Given the scale of the failures of Detroit and perhaps now of California why is repeating the same mistakes not only inevitable but actually described as being desirable public policy? Maybe it is because we cannot help ourselves. Consider that before the year is out the Senate may have voted in health care bill which a majority of voters, if polls are to be believed, actually detest but which they are going to get anyway. Like the residents of Detroit, we take the handout we know will kill us and do it despite everything.

Yes, like good serfs, we’ll knuckle our foreheads and thank the aristocracy which has just taken more of our freedom and money to use as they wish to use it and reward them by giving them additional chances to increase their power and further erode ours. And anyone who stands up in the shadow of this monstrosity and the process that brought it to fruition and says this is exactly what those who founded this country envisioned is a damnable and contemptible liar.

~McQ

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