Update March 21: Obviously, we were wrong. The House has passed the Senate version, and ObamaCare and it is now the law of the land.
March 13, 2010:
The conflicts and lack of trust within the their own Party make it impossible for President Obama and the Democrats to enact their sweeping government take-over of health care without violating the Constitution. In an earlier time, before citizens had the means to scrutinize Congress as closely as we now have, politicians got away with extra-Constitutional schemes like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama are now contemplating.
But we don’t believe they can pull it off in the era of the Internet, talk radio, cable news channels, and the Tea Party movement.
The Constitution’s procedural requirements for enacting new laws is clear. Both the House and the Senate must pass exactly the same legislation, and then it must be signed by the President. More often than not, four steps are required:
- The Senate passes its version of new legislation.
- The House of Representatives passes passes its version of the same legislation.
- Since the bills are not exactly the same, as required by the Constitution, members of the House and Senate meet together in a conference committee to edit and combine the two bills. The goal of the conference committee is to write language that can attract enough votes in each body to pass the legislation.
- The conference committee version goes back to the House and the Senate. Each body must pass it, as written, with no amendments.
If the conference committee version cannot attract enough votes in each body the legislation dies.
For ObamaCare, steps 1 and 2 have been completed. But the the Senate version was passed on Christmas Eve when the Democrats had the required sixty votes. Now, since Republican Scott Brown was elected, the Democrats have only 59 votes and thus could not pass any conference version. Even before Scott Brown, passage of the Senate version required the now infamous “special deals” for individual Senators that could not survive the conference committee process. Thus, the Democratic leadership ruled out the conference committee process weeks ago.
This chaotic health care debate has exposed two fundamental weakness in the Democrat party:
- It won it’s substantial majority in the House of Representatives by fielding candidates in swing districts who campaigned on Conservative themes that party leaders don’t believe in. But it has been attempting to govern as if it had a sweeping mandate to dramatically expand government’s size and power. The basic concept of ObamaCare, that absolute government control will bring about better results than the status quo, simply does not sell in those swing districts.
- It is largely a coalition of disparate and unpopular causes that manage to stifle their differences just long enough to win elections, but not long enough to govern. These causes include:
- Greater rights, privileges, and public benefits for illegal immigrants;
- Gay marriage and public school indoctrination in favor of homosexuality;
- Publicly funded abortion on demand for any female of any age without condition;
- Maintaining and expanding the benefits enjoyed by union members, especially teachers and government employees;
- Extreme environmentalism, including efforts to reduce the birth rate in order to reduce the size of the human population;
- Enriching trial lawyers by passing legislation that creates pretexts for more lawsuits;
- Shrinking the U.S. military and blanket opposition to any military operation.
At least half of Democrat House members owe their careers to, and cannot vote in favor of a bill that looks like it may weaken the supporters of one of these causes. Some examples:
- One liberal Democrat, Luiz Gutierrez of Illinois, who would otherwise be a reliable vote in favor of government health care, told CNN he would vote no because the bill, as now written would deny benefits to illegal immigrants.
- Approximately 12 Democrats are pro-life and so far have been unwilling to vote for the Senate version because it would allow government funding of abortion. But many more Democrats are aligned with the abortion-on-demand movement and are loathe to vote for any restriction on government funding.
- Representative Bart Stupak, who has been the most outspoken pro-life Democrat told reporters that he was urged by Democrat leaders to vote in favor of public funding of abortion because reducing the number of babies born would reduce government spending on health care.
- The Senate version of the bill includes a tax on the most generous and expensive health plans that are usually found in unionized organizations. House members who are beholden to unions are unwilling to vote for a bill that includes this tax.
- Some Democrats agree with Republicans that curtailing lawsuits and limiting money judgments to actual losses suffered would decrease the cost of Health Care. But most Democrats are too much indebted to the trial lawyers to go along.
Democrat leaders have been trying to sell House members on a two step process that begins with the House passing the Senate version as written. The President would then sign the Senate version and it would become the law of the land.
The second step would be pass a bill of amendments that would somehow “fix” the Senate version so it would no longer offend house members trying to be loyal to the causes that support them. That second bill would then have to pass both the House and the Senate. Democrats claim they can use a process called “reconciliation” in the Senate that would require only 51 votes for passage. However, that claim is very much in dispute.
Reconciliation, if used for this legislation, would violate the rules of the Senate, which would be a violation of the Constitution. Besides, it is doubtful that a bill that satisfied enough House Democrats could win even 51 Senate Democrat votes.
Another idea being floated by House leadership would be to pass the “fixit” bill under a contrived “rule” that would deem the Senate version also passed, but without a vote. Obviously, this would violate the Constitution.
In reality, House Democrats who vote in favor of the Senate version, would have to do so either because it is acceptable as is to them and to the pressure groups who support them, or because they have to trust leaders to write a fixit bill that will be acceptable and can actually be enacted by both bodies. And that would take a lot of naive trust, by sleazy politicians in other sleazy politicians!