Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Height of Arrogance

The Hat Trick hasn't commented on political issues lately but I feel it is time to do so regarding the upcoming vote on health care reform and the recent discussions of the Democratic leadership regarding their legislative strategy. The Hat Trick can sum up in one word his feelings toward the Democratic leadership and Speaker Pelosi: appalled.

I want to make one thing clear to my readers: while I have some deep concerns regarding the current plan, as well as previous drafts of the health care legislation, the Hat Trick has pretty much kept quiet. This is because I do think there is a significant need for reform of our current system. The issues surrounding pre-existing conditions (insurance companies ability to deny coverage based on an applicants existing medical issue), inability of small business to pool together in groups to purchase insurance across state lines (such as labor unions and large corporations can do) and tort reform/cost of malpractice insurance for practitioners are serious issues that need to be addressed. However, I still remain concerned about the scope and impact of the current legislation before the House of Representatives and I'm not alone in that assessment based on a recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll. This is why Speaker Nancy Pelosi is finding it very difficult to obtain the 216 votes she needs in the House of Representatives to pass the Senate-passed bill. She faces two challenges: strong opposition from moderate and conservative members of her caucus who fear electoral defeat in November if they support the legislation and opposition to the bill from ardent liberal in her caucus who state the legislation doesn't go far enough. Add in the fact that it appears not a single Republican in the 111th Congress (accounting for 178 votes) will support the bill and you can see the challenges in passing the legislation that the Speaker currently faces. A girl just can't get a break can she?

It would seem at this juncture the prudent move would be to step back and try and find a plan that will work and gain Republican votes.

This brings us to the current state of affairs. The Speaker now proposes to use a legislative technique called "reconciliation" to pass the health care bill in the House. The advantage to using reconciliation is that it would only require a majority vote in the Senate to pass the bill instead of overcoming a 60 member procedural vote to invoke cloture and stop a filibuster. The bad part about using reconciliation is that it was never intended to be used to pass this type of legislation. Rather, it was established in 1974 to allow Congress to address contentious budget resolutions without the threat of a filibuster. However, it has been used to pass other contentious types of legislation sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats. The current spin by Democrats on Capitol Hill is that only Republicans have abused the reconciliation process, which is not very truthful at all. While they point out that it was used eight times during the Reagan Administration (January 1981-January 1989) they fail to point out that the Democrats controlled the House during all eight years of the Reagan presidency and control of the entire Congress from 1987 to 1989 (and beyond until 1995). The bottom line is that both parties have abused the reconciliation process but each party has been adroit at defending their (ab)use of the process.

However, one of the big issues that concerns the Hat Trick is the impact that health care reform will have on the entire population, particularly with regard to cost. This makes the gimmicky use of reconciliation all the more appalling to me given the incredible impact this will have on the population and the economy.

If this wasn't bad enough the Democrats want to take it one step further. Speaker Pelosi is evaluating using a legislative device called "Deem and Pass" which would set up a scenario where the unpopular Senate-passed package would be "deemed passed" after the House passes a package of modifications to the bill. The theory behind this is that the politically vulnerable Democrats could claim they never voted for the unpopular Senate package. Seriously? Where do we get these people? It's no wonder that the American population has such a low opinion of Congress and of politics. This is a great example of petulant politics where the Democrats are unhappy that they American people have the audacity to question their legislation so now they are going to try and "gimmick" it through instead. Absolutely pathetic.

I'm not saying the Republicans wouldn't have tried the same thing but the fact is that it's the Democrats that are doing this to avoid a legislation showdown. The Hat Trick is pretty frustrated by this...the bottom line is if you feel this legislation is the right thing for the country then take the vote and let the chips fall. Stop the stupidity and stop the shady deals and legislative gimmicks.

Congress: It's time to man up and take a stand.

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