Learning from this weekend’s dark-of-night passage of health care reform in the House of Representatives
On some nights, I brew coffee at midnight, because midnight is when I begin studying. I do my best thinking at midnight. I do my best writing at midnight. The house is quiet, my wife and daughter are safe in bed, and I’ve had sufficient time to wind down after a full day of work and school. It’s perfect.
Midnight is a great time. Midnight may be my favorite time. But do you know what I don’t want to see happen at midnight?
Nancy Pelosi passing a damn bill.
When I woke up yesterday morning, it was going to be a good day. The weather was beautiful. A curiously sleepy little girl in the bedroom next door gave me a rare opportunity to sleep in. We had a birthday party to go to, and the rest of the day to finish off leftover Halloween candy and goof around.
It was going to be a good day yesterday — until I turned on the television looking for some sort of cartoon to keep my daughter occupied while I made breakfast and, before I could change the channel, I spied Nancy Pelosi standing in what appeared to be a body condom colored red with the blood of a freshly violated populace, gavel in hand, grinning the grinningest poop-eating grin her taut face would allow, reading off a pair of numbers:
Wait a second, I thought. What the heck was that? What just happened?
The original Associated Press story about the vote was filed at 12:15 a.m., early Sunday morning. The official House roll call was time-stamped with 12:26 a.m. They passed this bill at midnight? They passed the single largest entitlement program in the history of the world, a piece of legislation directly affecting one-sixth of our nation’s economy, at midnight on a Saturday?
Whatever happened to the promise that the era of closed-door, weasel-heavy politics in Washington was over? Whatever happened to the promise that bills would be posted online for a full 72 hours before a vote? The clown on my television set, the one trying so desperately hard to smile, certainly wasn’t offering any answers.
Answers, however, will be offered all day today and perhaps all week, barring another–God forbid–terrorist attack by a radical Muslim which can be subsequently dismissed by the press as merely a stressed-out soldier who “snapped.” And what we’re going to hear today from the Monday-morning quarterbacks on the left is that health care reform is simply too important, to both the people it will undoubtedly forsake and the very economy it will inevitably destroy if ever signed into law, to allow for any sort of delay in the legislative process.
If that’s the case, if health care reform is so immediately needed by America, why won’t the plan laid out in H.R. 3962 officially be in effect for another four years, until after the 2012 presidential campaign? Why the need to pass the legislation in the wee hours of Saturday night, when the only folks awake in Washington are the barflies and the people charged with reminding President Barack Obama every few minutes that he’s the American president, and not a Central American dictator or African Colonial hell bent on destroying the Great Satan at whatever cost?
I’ll tell you why: for a fleeting moment, Nancy Pelosi had the votes she needed, and she did her best to catch lightning in a bottle. If she had delayed any longer, after all, perhaps the precious few congressmen with whom America hung in the balance would have gone home, slept on it, and remembered that they actually don’t want to saddle generations to come with crippling debt and a health care system devoid of the resources and ingenuity which once made it great.
Besides, in a stroke of strategic brilliance from an otherwise dim bulb, Pelosi played to the social conservatives and made fools of them using their own hottest-of-buttons issue–abortion–against them. As I wrote yesterday morning here at America’s Right, and as I guessed almost perfectly on October 30, Pelosi and the Democrats used their lack of respect for unborn life as a shell game of sorts.
Those who stood opposed to this bill got suckered, big time, by the woman in the blood-red body condom. She and her flunkies included, in the 2,000-plus pages of H.R. 3962, a provision which would have allowed the federal funding of abortion procedures, a provision which runs afoul of the Hyde Amendment, controlling law which prohibits just that. But the Republicans in particular took the bait, going so far as to propose an amendment striking the controversial provision from the legislation as a whole. And when the Democrats passed that amendment, giving those opposed to the bill to begin with a miniscule victory, it was enough to provide the false sense of security I wrote about a little more than a week ago and allow for the passage of the rest of the bill at large.
In other words, the Democrats included a patently illegal provision in the health care reform bill, those who opposed the legislation used it as a sticking point, and the Democrats did what they had planned all along — concede the unlawful provision and allow the detractors to win a minor fist-fight but subsequently lose the rest of the war.
All it would have taken were two Blue Dog Democrats who felt as though passage of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment was enough to assuage a pro-life constituency and secure their re-election next year. Yet, should the bill pass the Senate as well, I can guarantee that the amendment will be stripped out in conference anyway.
This whole process was such a valuable lesson. And the only way I can rationalize what happened over the weekend as a blessing in disguise is if we can learn from it all.
First, and most obviously, it was a reminder that our lawmakers need to keep their eye on the ball. While the federal funding of abortion is abhorrent, it is also against the law as it stands and would inevitably have been successfully challenged in the courts as a violation of Hyde. The real issues here were cost and scope of government. The Democrats themselves estimated the cost of the bill to be $894 billion over ten years. The CBO scored it at $1.055 trillion, and then $1.2 trillion. And the New York Post, in reassessing CBO numbers, projected the ten-year cost to be $1.8 trillion. It was cost and government interference which has been resonating with an increasingly irate American people, not abortion. I’m pro-life, but it wasn’t the left’s stance on abortion which started the tea party movement and ignited the backlash we see now. People like Louisiana Republican Rep. Joseph Cao and the Blue Dogs who originally opposed the bill but caved in the end should have understood that their constituents are far more concerned with cost and government than abortion.
And second, it was a haunting dose of reality with regard to the consequences of social conservatism trumping fiscal conservatism to the detriment of the country as a whole in this era of Democratic Party governmental overreach. Going forward, the focus of the Republican Party and any politician or candidate who seeks re-election or election should be, plain and simple, the proper size, scope, reach and role of the American federal government.
That’s it. That’s all. We are at a time now where Alexander Hamilton’s pendulum of federalism is swinging more and more toward an all-powerful centralized government, and the American people are putting matters of party aside as they grow more and more concerned for their freedom. This isn’t traditional right versus left — this is right versus wrong, liberty versus tyranny, and while abortion and gay rights and everything else has a place in the platform of conservatives, right now the primary weakness of those in the far-left ruling class who seek to destroy this country is their penchant for nudging Washington, D.C. into every nook and cranny of American daily life.
That’s where we should be pushing. And if the focus had not been deterred by the abortion debate and assuaging social conservatives and instead had remained on cost and cost and cost and government interference in every aspect of life inside and out of the confines of medicine and health care, perhaps two more congressmen or congresswomen could have properly realized that striking an unlawful provision from a bill does not make a favorable vote safe.
Now that the 2009 elections are behind us, we must consider the victories for fiscal conservatism and manifested concern over expanding government in Virginia and New Jersey as we officially turn our attention to the mid-term elections of 2010. If played correctly, November of next year could be an absolute bloodbath for those who, time and again during the last two years, have voted in favor of the exponential expansion of government. While we must not abandon our traditional values, going forward we absolutely must remain focused on the primary weaknesses of Democrats and liberal Republicans alike — the proper role of government, an increased tax and regulatory burden on American individuals and businesses, and our increasingly shaky foreign policy and national security picture.
Let this weekend’s midnight vote serve as a lesson to all of us concerned about our nation’s future. We need a united voice and a focused message: Stop spending, keep us safe, and facilitate economic growth by getting out of our way. That’s all. We do that, and everything else will drop into place accordingly. We stray elsewhere, into issues that may be important but aren’t necessarily timely, and we could lose this country at least for another six years, if not eternally.