Monday, March 15, 2010

Lambs for Slaughter

The suggestion reportedly made by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, chair of the House rules committee, that the Democrats employ an arcane rule that is little more than a legislative trick to pass the stalled Obama healthcare bill would be ludicrously funny if it did not display so baldly the desperation of the majority party in Congress to enact a law so clearly opposed by most Americans.

This legislation, which would transform the nation's private healthcare system to a government-run bureaucracy while at the same time stunningly increase the nation's deficit, is simply not in the American grain. It is a failed system imported from Europe and Canada where health care availability is supposedly free (but of course paid for heavily by everyone's taxes), and is often unavailable in a timely or reasonable manner.

There is no question that healthcare costs in the United States are growing too fast, and that the medical insurance system is inefficient. Everyone seems agreed about this. But while President Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership propose changes that employ all the techniques from the past which got us into the mess we're in now, there are sensible conservative alternatives which accomplish the same goals with better healthcare and at lower cost. This became apparent at the recent healthcare summit, called by President Obama, at which Republicans articulated many of these proposals and ideas.

Every 48 hours or so, Speaker Pelosi declares she has the votes to pass the Obama bill, but so far she does not have them. There is a good reason for this. No matter how much arm-twisting, threats and legal "bribes" she offers members who are not yet absolutely decided, the bill is both undecipherable and very unpopular with most Americans. Over many months, this has not changed. In fact, the bill's support continues to get weaker.

The Democrats have now formally notified the Republicans that they intend to use the "reconciliation" technique to force the bill through. Most neutral observers (as well as opponents) think this is inappropriate for such far-reaching legislation, but let us assume, it is attempted nevertheless.

If the Obama-Pelosi-Reid effort fails, it will be humiliating for the leadership. If it succeeds, it will be devastating to many incumbent Democrats in November, possibly costing them control of one or both the House and the Senate. The "Slaughter" maneuver is so over-the-top it is unlikely to be considered further, but the fact that Democratic leaders are even floating these kinds of strategies only further publicizes their desperation and out-of-touch-with-the-public thinking.

At some point, significant Democrats in the Congress are going to say "Enough!" A few have already spoken up, and say they will not vote for this legislation. As we approach election day, it will become more and more obvious that its passage would lead to an electoral debacle far beyond what is even now being predicted.

I will not say that Obama-Pelosi-Reid can't pass their healthcare bill, but if they somehow bamboozle their own members and send it to the president's desk, Washington, DC will be filled in January, 2011 with former congresspersons and senators packing their bags to go home.

They will have been political lambs led to slaughter.

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