At some point between running through the jungles of Vietnam and starting his own shrimp-boating company, Hanks’ Forrest Gump was sent on a goodwill trip to China, undoubtedly in advance of Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to Beijing. A ping-pong prodigy, Hanks-as-Gump paved the way for the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Now, nearly 40 years later and in the real world, it looks as if we’re getting ready to play a little ping-pong with communists again. This time, however, there’s no reason to travel to the Far East. This time, all we need to do is look across the political aisle here at home.
As best as I can explain it, there are two different schools of thought when it comes to reconciling the House and Senate versions of a piece of legislation. The first is the traditional route, through which representatives from both bodies meet formally and hash out a compromise, then have that compromise bill voted on by the House and Senate and, if passed, everything moves on to the president. The second is affectionately called “ping-pong,” and the name itself is a generalization of a less formal procedure in which the bill is bounced back and forth between House and Senate until a compromise comes about more naturally.
When it comes to health care reform and the dramatic, dangerous and inevitably disastrous reorganization of one-sixth of our nation’s economy, we’re going to get the latter. It’s gonna be like Forrest Gump in 1972, folks, and the people on the other side of the net aren’t much smarter than ole’ Forrest was.
According to The New Republic, senior staffers from both the House and Senate are hinting that “House and Senate Democrats are ‘almost certain’ to negotiate informally rather than convene a formal conference committee.” The New Republic continues:
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 “procedural hurdles” are those darned obstructionist Republicans. Seriously. The piece quotes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stating on Christmas Eve, after the bill passed the Senate, that he and his colleagues would “work to stop this bill from becoming law.” What the New Republic piece fails to note and what those unnamed staffers seem to forget, however, is that the Democrats have the votes. Any problems that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have in getting this legislation through their respective chambers will be a direct result of their own Democrats who realized that the American people don’t want this behemoth, and who said that no amount of federal money or incentives will be enough for them to allow their vote to be purchased like Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson did before them.
Is the decision to engage in “ping-pong” abnormal? Not necessarily. Is it sinister? Given the Democrats’ propensity to micturate upon any and all promises of transparency, probably. But at the end of the day this is a matter of political expediency — President Barack Obama wants a completed and signed health care reform bill, in any form, by the time he warms up the TelePrompTer for his State of the Union address.
There will be nothing bipartisan about this bill. Even the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn acknowledges this, saying that “Republicans are sure to complain” about the meetings and deliberations being done behind closed doors and without GOP input, “[b]ut given their repeated efforts to block not just reform but even mere votes on reform, it’s not clear why Democrats are obligated to include them in discussions anymore.”
And to that, I say “fine.” Let the Democratic Party own this pile of legislative feces. In the meantime, the Republicans must get on record, as often as possible and in as many ways as possible, with the many alternatives which have been offered and subsequently rebuffed by their counterparts across the aisle. They need to be specific. They need to be directly in touch with the American people, especially those in districts and states with Democrat representatives and senators who maintain even a shred of common sense. They need to stress involvement from those Americans: “Listen, folks, here are the facts about this bill, here is what we’ve offered, and because your congressman or senator is playing politics and refuses to listen to us, you need to be the one getting through.”
As with what happens with so many liberal policies, the real-world consequences of this health care reform will sink the Democratic Party for years to come. Republicans on Capitol Hill need to ensure that every last Democrat in both the House and Senate understands that they have complete and total ownership of this filth. They need to know what’s at stake. Despite what folks on the left might insist, the fate of this legislation rests in the hands of the Democrats. It’s up to us to make sure they know what they’re getting themselves into.
On this one, there’s no room for “run, Forrest, run.” This is time to stand and fight. And while we don’t have the votes to stop anything ourselves, we have reality on our side — reality that the American people know that this brand of health care reform is the Democrats’ project, and that the Democrats alone will have to bear the consequences should it pass.