Posts Tagged ‘reconciliation’

Those sneaky Dems and their “stealth accomplishments”.

Last Tuesday, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) — aka “Obamacare”. Today, Obama signed the reconciliation bill that was supposed to implement the “fixes” to Obamacare, as required by the House. But, they decided to attach the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act bill as a rider. Together with the original “fixes” bill, they are to be known forevermore as the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R. 4872). Huh?

Obama speaks about student loan reform

The Obamassiah tells how he brings salvation to the student loan industry (March 29, 2010 - Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images North America)

There is much that could be said about this, but I’ll leave most of it to others. I just have two questions I’d like to ask.

My first question to our esteemed President and his Congressional comrades is, “What the heck does taking over student loans have to do with healthcare reform?” I don’t even remember this being mentioned until a few days ago. So, what gives? Well, not waiting for an answer, I did a little research and came up with an answer in two parts.

1) The reconciliation maneuver can only be used once per budget year, and Democrats probably figured this was their best (only?) chance to get the “student loan reform bill” passed. (Even some centrist Democrats were opposed.)

2) The Senate parliamentarian informed Dem leaders that, in order to pass budgetary muster, “both the Senate health and finance committees would need to produce $1 billion in deficit savings each over the next 10 years”. The reconciliation bill as it was could not do this; piggybacking the education bill with it allowed the whole package to meet requirements. Pretty sneaky, sis! (Sorry for the old TV commercial reference.)

As a bonus, President Obama gets a two-fer added to his Progressive resume.

I know, I know. This is just typical Congressional behavior. But, it just irks me that they had the nerve to attach another bill onto the Obamacare travesty legislation, let alone one that represents the federal government taking over yet another part of our economy. And taking business away from U.S. financial institutions, too. (Of course, the Administration loves to give this industry a hard time, deserving or not.)

Which brings me to my second question for Obama et al. “Where are you gonna get the money to lend to the students?” The federal government won’t just be subsidizing & guaranteeing student loans anymore. Now it has to loan the entire amounts. After spending so much money already and putting the nation in more debt than it’s ever been in (and getting worse), where will the federal government — specifically, the Dept. of Education — get the funds? My guess is a combination of taxes, fines, shuffling government monies around on paper, maybe borrowing from banks(?), etc. In other words, more pain for the taxpayer.

And don’t get me started on the government’s history with running student loan programs….

Rumor has it that this bill also provides “$2.55 billion to support historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions”. Hmmm. If those groups are being singled out, that sounds like reverse discrimination to me. But, if I asked about that, I’d probably be called a racist. So, I won’t ask.

P.S.  If you read the U.S. News article (which is overwhelmingly pro the student loan part of the Act), be sure to check out the reader comments titled “My Two Copper Coins…” (for some additional points from the other side) and “A little history on student loans” (for a first-hand account of why the govt should not be in this business).

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Stupak and the Blue Dogs caved / drank the Kool-Aid / got bought off — don’t hold your breath for that executive order, Bart — and the Senate’s bill passed the House. Now what?

Painting of the Battle of Waterloo

Famous painting of the Battle of Waterloo, by Robinson (c. 1820)

Some on the Left (and part-time Republicans like David Frum) are saying that the passing of Obamacare signifies a “Waterloo” moment for the Republicans & conservatives. Now, I don’t know much about the Waterloo Campaign, but I understand that Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo marked the end of the war and the end of Napoleon’s rule. So, I guess this is supposed to be it for the Republican Party as we know it — the end of any meaningful resistance to Obamacare and the end of the days of influence/relevance for the GOP and its supposedly heartless, hatemongering, “Right Wing Conspiracy” cheerleaders.

Naturally, I disagree with the sentiment. For one thing, the poll numbers for Obamacare were clearly in our favor — somewhere between 60% & 70% were/are against it. Other surveys indicate that America still leans conservative. We may be down, but we’re not out. If I was a better student of military history, I might be able to come up with a better metaphor. I’m thinking maybe something to do with George Washington and his battered & beleaguered troops in the American Revolution. There were many battles, and they suffered many defeats. Yet, through a combination of “luck”, Providence, perseverance, bravery & skill, and the overconfidence & arrogance of their enemy, the American colonies won their independence against the superior numbers of their elitist, tax-obsessed oppressors. See the parallels?

Of course, this wasn’t just any fight, this “battle for healthcare reform”. It was one where the larger opponent tied the smaller opponent’s hand behind his back, took his gun and left him with a knife. And, as the fight progressed, the larger opponent kept changing the rules. (OK, I could try to carry this analogy out further, but it’s late, so I’ll stop.)

The Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine combined the radicalism of Alinsky, the corruption of Springfield and the machine power politics of Chicago. Sunday was a pressured, bought, intimidated vote worthy of Hugo Chavez but unworthy of the United States of America.

[But,…] This is not the end of the fight; it is the beginning of the fight…. The American people will not allow a corrupt machine to dictate their future. Together we will pledge to repeal this bill and start over. Together we will prove that this will not stand.”

Newt Gingrich

General Washington pulled victory from the jaws of defeat. So, what can we do? A number of things are already underway or in the works:

1) Republican Senators are doing all they can (within the rules) to fight the “reconciliation” maneuver being used to pass the House-required “fixes” to the bill. (For example, there is still the issue of whether “reconciliation” rules can be bent far enough to pass non-budgetary proposals.) From what I can tell, the “fixes” have to be passed as is, as a package. So, if any changes are made to the “fixes”, it will have to go back to the House for a vote. (Or, whatever Pelosi & Co. can cook up to get around a vote, if they don’t think it will go their way.)

2) Republicans in both houses are releasing “repeal” bills. It’s a longshot, and it won’t happen anytime soon — not with our current, Democrat-dominated legislature, of course. And it probably won’t have a chance until at least 2012. But, the reasoning is that a) talk in Congress, the media, & the public will keep the idea alive and “get lawmakers on the record” before upcoming elections; and, b) the bills will be in place for if/when Republicans regain the majority (see below). Some Republicans in Congress see such efforts as a distraction and an unrealistic goal. But, as Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said, “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go after it.”

3) Over 3 dozen state governors and their attorneys general are suing Congress — 14 have already filed — for passing an unconstitutional law. Of the two main issues that come up, the first is the mandated health insurance. The argument (with which I agree) is that the Constitution gives no authority to the federal government to force any citizen to purchase any good or service, let alone from any particular merchant/source(s). The other concern is the unsubsidized billions of $ the states will have to come up with to support the millions of additional people being put into the Medicaid program. Most states are already casting about for ways to meet their budget; they can’t afford to have this thrown on top, too.

Gov. Butch Otter of Idaho

Gov. "Butch" Otter of Idaho (AP)

4) Meanwhile, a few states (beginning with Idaho and Virginia) are passing legislation to exempt their citizens from parts of Obamacare like “being forced to purchase government-approved health insurance.” As with the above lawsuits, the matter of federalism is also at issue. By instituting these federal laws, is the federal government infringing on the states’ sovereign rights?

5) It doesn’t really matter now, but had the “deem and pass” strategy been utilized by Speaker Pelosi to force Obamacare through without a House vote, Mark Levin — popular conservative talk-show host and constitutional law scholar — had already drafted a lawsuit to be immediately filed against President Obama, Att. Gen. Eric Holder, Sec. of Treas. Timothy Geithner, & Sec. of HHS Karen Sebelius for allowing such an “unconstitutional contrivance” to be used. (Not sure why Pelosi and Reid weren’t included.) Sort of a moot point now, but I am glad someone was prepared to challenge that ridiculous maneuver in court. There may still be opportunity for a similar challenge….

6) Stay Active! We need to continue to write; call; sign petitions; attend rallies; volunteer & donate to conservative candidates, PACs, Tea Parties, and other groups; etc. Let the current administration and its cohorts know that we will not stand idly by as they transform us into the European Union West. The rhetoric from the Right must be challenging and forceful, yet respectful (of persons & offices, not ideas). Marxist thought may be tolerated in America — people are free to read, say, and believe what they want — but it is, arguably by definition, NOT American and should have no part in our government.

7) Take back Congress and Take back America! In November 2010, we can begin voting out/against any candidates who aren’t & weren’t fully against Obamacare. We cannot let a few months’ time wash from our memories the stain that they left on the Constitution and our freedoms. We must vote solidly conservative leaders into office, so that they can begin repealing Obamacare, either in pieces or as a whole, if possible. We must replace it with REAL healthcare reform — common-sense, patient-centered, market-driven, and not under Big Brother’s control.

Let’s make Washington proud. George Washington, that is — as well as the rest of America’s Founding Fathers and the Framers of the U.S. Constitution. Let’s get America back on track! Can we do this? With the right people, the right strategy & tactics, with focus and perseverance, and with blessings & guidance from God above… “Yes, We Can!”

Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer

Speaker Pelosi speaks to media with Steny Hoyer watching

The smell of Obamacare is heavy in the air. So, here are a couple updates extracted from an AFP email:

There’s been much talk about ‘reconciliation’ but candidly, it’s overrated and perhaps even a red herring. Here’s why. The president will sign the original Senate bill, HR3590, into law immediately following House passage. That means BEFORE the Senate takes up reconciliation. A ruling last week from the Senate parliamentarian requires that to be the sequence. So by the time the Senate is debating reconciliation, they will be tweaking a disastrous bill that is already law.

So when you hear the president and others say the Senate will ‘continue to work on improving the bill in reconciliation,’ don’t be fooled.

With House passage of the Senate bill, Obama will have 99% of what he wants, whether or not he can get the other 1% through reconciliation. Winning the ‘reconciliation’ battle will certainly not ensure victory. We must win in the House.”

But, here’s a little bit of encouraging news:

Speaker Pelosi is crowing that she has the votes. But if she had the votes to pass her health care takeover, she would finish it now by holding the vote. No, the fact is for all the Speaker’s bluster and threats and deal-making, she does not yet have the majority needed to win.”

Let’s hope & pray the Blue Dogs and fence-sitters hold out and don’t give into the peer pressure they must be feeling from Obama, Pelosi, and the rest. (And that they can’t be bribed or lulled into thinking it ain’t so bad.) If you haven’t yet contacted your Congressman/woman to let them know you expect them to serve the will of the people and vote against Obamacare, now would be a good time.

Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010, is the date for the new “health care summit“, where President Obama requested to meet with Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike to, hopefully, make progress toward passing a healthcare overhaul bill. “We’re going to move forward the Democratic proposal — we hope the Republicans have one too,” Obama said. “And we’ll sit down and let’s hammer it out. We’ll go section by section. America can’t solve our economic problems unless we tackle some of these structural problems.”

But, what’s the point, really?

I don’t think I’m being cynical, here. It’s just that the plans are already in place to ram Obamacare through, regardless of what Republicans or the majority of The People have to say about it. The Democrats are sticking with what want, what they’ve got, and aren’t really interested in other ideas or approaches. Senate and House leaders (i.e., all Dems, remember) have been working for weeks on forging a compromise on their two versions of Obamacare. Early this week, the President will be revealing his own version of a healthcare reform bill, which will no doubt be a close reflection of what Pelosi, Reid, et al. are putting together. And it has been made clear that the Democrats are ready to use the reconciliation procedure to force through whatever they settle on — a highly questionable move, at best.

Republicans, on the other hand, generally don’t want anything to do with the current monstrosity, in any form. They want to start over, concentrating on smaller pieces of legislation, starting with those things both sides can agree on. For example, removing barriers to insurance coverage for people with existing medical conditions. They also want to do things like cap medical malpractice judgements, which the CBO says will reduce defensive medicine, thereby also reducing costs. (The President thinks such a cap would be “going too far”. Hmm. You don’t think his trial lawyer buddies are influencing his thinking, do you?)

So, why should Republicans even show up at the summit? Mainly, because not doing so will play right into their opponents hands, “proving” that they are unreasonable obstructionists who won’t even attempt to play ball. Plus, attending gives Republican leaders another chance to voice their alternative ideas in public, since the summit will be televised.

Despite this, IMHO, this week’s summit is really a sham. It’s an opportunity for the President to pretend he’s suddenly ready-n-willing to seriously consider what the Republicans are saying, encourage his fellow Democrats to stay firm in their quest to pass Obamacare, and get some good press. I seriously doubt much will really be accomplished toward “fixing” the current legislation, so that everyone is even partially satisfied. The Dems will still try to push through the travesty that is Obamacare via reconciliation, as planned.

Or, as Mark Tapscott of the San Francisco Examiner put it, “[T]he summit is part and parcel of a White House/congressional Democratic strategy to distract attention from what is about to happen on the Hill. It’s the classic magician’s trick of distracting you with the left hand while the right hand does the ‘trick.'”

Of course, this has nothing to do with reconciling differences between Democrats and Republicans, or even between radicals & moderates within the former group. This “reconciliation” is a controversial procedural move that the Democrats in Congress want to use to pass Obamacare, despite their losing the 60-vote Senate supermajority.

Since its introduction in 1974, the reconciliation process has rarely been used, and only for its original purpose of sidestepping impasses on budgetary resolutions. Ostensibly for reducing deficits or increasing surpluses, its wording only refers to “changes” in revenue and spending amounts. Although intended for only limited application and for a single fiscal year, it has since been expanded in scope to pass sweeping omnibus bills. For example, Congress used reconciliation to pass Clinton’s 1993 budget. The President also wanted them to use the same tactic to enact “HillaryCare”, but Sen. Byrd, author of 1985’s Byrd Rule, prevailed in his arguments that healthcare was out-of-bounds. It wasn’t until 1999 that reconciliation was used by the Senate to enact something that would actually have a negative impact on the federal fiscal position (i.e., the Taxpayer Refund and Relief Act). It was used again to pass the Marriage Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2000, with similar results. [Note: It might be interesting to note that reconciliation was used 3 times under George W. Bush, each time to pass major tax cuts, which would lapse after 10 years in adherence with Byrd Rule guidelines.]

U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Capitol Building where U.S. Congress meets

By its very nature, reconciliation favors the majority party, because it limits debate and amendment and avoids filibuster. Rather than the usual 60 votes needed to pass a bill, the procedure allows the Senate Parliamentarian (i.e., currently Alan Frumin, who has already shown himself to be partisan toward Democrats) to modify the bill such that it only requires a simple majority (in the Senate) of 51 votes. If there is a 50/50 tie, the Vice President votes the tiebreaker; and we all know which way Biden leans. The bill then goes to the President for his sign-off. Important point: It doesn’t matter which order bills are passed by Congress, but it does matter what order the President signs them into law.

Now we have the Democrats in the majority and trying again to pass another socialistic, debt-growing healthcare plan via reconciliation. Of course, in addition to the above, the procedure does involve going through several committees and meeting certain requirements from the 1974 Budget Act and the 1985 “Byrd Rule”, which restricts non-budgetary use of the reconciliation maneuver. Also, the minority party in the Senate still has a chance to force a separate roll call vote on every line of the bill. But, Sen. Reid et al. think they can somehow get around the “Byrd Rule” and any other obstacles. Despite resistance from the fiscally conservative “Blue Dogs”, Pelosi’s Democrats have the majority in the House, which is why no one is talking about using reconciliation there. [UPDATE: It seems that Pelosi may not have the votes she needs, after all. Go here and here for more on this.]

With the President expected to present his new plan any day now [Note: Originally posted 2/20/2010.], House and Senate Democratic leaders are winding down weeks of negotiations over the details. (Questions: If Obama is crafting his own version of what he thinks is a “good bill”, which will then be presented to Pelosi & Reid, what exactly has the Democratic leadership been negotiating? Are they merely humoring him? How much detail will Obama get into? How closely are they expected to adhere to his bill? Is this constitutional? Just wondering….)

While even congressional Democrats can’t be sure what will end up in the final bill, reconciliation efforts will probably go something like this (as per the NCPA):

1) House Democrats pass several “fixes” for the Senate bill.

2) Senate Democrats endorse the “fixes” and send them to the President (who does nothing with them, yet).

3) House Democrats bypass the need for subsequent Senate vote by passing the Senate bill as-is and sending it to the President.

4) The President first signs the Senate bill, then the “fixes”.

So, what can those of us who oppose Obamacare do? We need to convince Senate moderates (e.g., Blanche Lincoln, D-AR), and anyone else in Congress currently on the fence about Obamacare of at least one of the following:

1) Passing Obamacare in anything like its current state is against the will of the majority of the people (as multiple surveys, demonstrations, & elections have shown), and voting for it would work against them when they are up for re-election.

2) Passing Obamacare in anything like its current state is simply unethical, because of its tremendous costs, intrusive control over people’s health/lives, unconstitutional interference with the market, etc.

3) Using the reconciliation tactic to pass anything other than budgetary resolutions is inappropriate and unethical, because it would violate its intended purpose and subsequent guidelines set in the Byrd Rule.

4) Using the reconciliation tactic to pass Obamacare in particular (given its controversial nature) seems underhanded and “dirty politics”, since it effectively cuts out Republicans and bypasses much of the normal legislative process. A topic this huge deserves full-throated, bipartisan debate.

If enough can be convinced, we can keep the yea-votes to 49 or less and defeat the “reconciliation” of Obamacare. The Democrats currently have 59 votes in the Senate, so we only need about 12 (including an additional couple to counteract the RINOs like Olympia Snowe, R-ME, and Robert Bennett, R-UT, who may go against party lines and vote for it). We CAN stop it!

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to join the Free Our Health Care NOW! Action Army, then call or write your Congressman. You can also donate to the NCPA here.