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Health Care Reform and Obamacare Are Not Synonyms

September 12, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

Last weekend Mitt Romney left grasping liberals and panicky conservatives aghast over some harmless Obamacare musings on Meet the Press.

When David Gregory asked Romney what he would do with some of the more popular provisions of Obamacare if elected, Romney replied, “I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform.  Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place.”

The media went crazy.  First John Roberts, now Mitt Romney.  Everywhere conservatives are wiping the scales from their eyes to behold the glories of Obamacare!

The Hill’s Brent Budowsky trumpeted, “Romney praises and endorses ObamaCare key achievements!”  He wrote: “It is good that Mitt Romney gives Barack Obama credit where it is due, by praising and endorsing two of the most important achievements of the president’s healthcare plan.  Because of President Obama’s leadership, and now with Gov. Romney’s full support, folks with pre-existing conditions will be covered by insurance, and countless kids will be covered by the insurance of their parents.”

Other liberals automatically assumed that Romney was clumsily flip-flopping.  Steve Benen claimed that Romney was “trying (and failing) to Etch A Sketch on health care” and “kicking off a near-comical display of ineptitude.”

CNN chided Romney’s “tap dance around Obamacare.”  Froma Harrop caroled that “Romney Suffers From Pre-existing Positions.”  (Next liberals will be tittering, “Romney Suffers From Premature Articulation.”)

Even conservatives misquoted Romney.  Mark Levin claimed on his radio show on Monday that Romney had said “he liked parts of Obamacare.”  The Daily Koz rounded up numerous quotes from horrified conservatives “in meltdown” over Romney’s remarks.

There’s just one problem: Romney never actually said any of the things liberals or conservatives have accused him of saying.

Note what Romney said: “There are a number of things that I like in health care reform,” not “There are a number of things that I like in Obamacare.”

Note what Romney said: “[There are things] that I’m going to put in place,” not “[There are things] that I’m going to keep [from Obamacare].”

Note what Romney said: “I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform,” not “I’m not getting rid of all of Obamacare.”

Nothing Romney has said since declaring his candidacy has contradicted his pledge to repeal Obamacare and issue a 50-state waiver on his first day in office.

“Health care reform” and “Obamacare” are synonymous only in Democrats’ stunted imaginations.

I understand why liberals would mistakenly interpret Romney’s remarks as flip-flopping on Obamacare.  But conservatives have no excuse for failing to grasp his meaning.

Any respectable laissez-faire capitalist knows that there are free-market ways of achieving the health care provisions Romney cited without unleashing a leviathan like Obamacare on the nation.

Denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition, as Obamacare makes it.  Coverage can be pinned to requirements policyholders meet by acting responsibly before they lose insurance.  Under our current system, people with preexisting conditions can legally receive coverage for months after a job loss if they have maintained insurance up to that point, and can then transfer their insurance to a new employer without being denied coverage for having a preexisting condition.

Coverage for those with preexisting conditions can be made limited or partial—depending on the consistency with which one has retained coverage in the past—rather than entirely paid for or entirely denied.

Individuals without insurance can enter high-risk pools that require higher premiums, but give coverage for costly care resulting from preexisting conditions.

There are a million ways the health insurance industry and its potential customers can experiment with coverage policies.  Such plans require the sustained focus and rational choice of numerous actors free from one-size-fits-all legislative mandates—which is why a big-government statist like Obama will do everything in his power to prevent such arrangements from ever being established.

Note that most media outlets omitted the closing sentence of Romney’s remarks, which promoted the free market reform of decoupling tax breaks from employer-funded health insurance: “I also want individuals to be able to buy insurance, health insurance, on their own as opposed to only being able to get it on a tax advantage basis through their company.”  Such an innovation would help resolve the problem of denial of coverage for preexisting conditions, because it would increase health insurance portability for those who move from being employed to unemployed or self-employed.

Even if you’re disinclined toward fully free market options, there are constitutional ways to experiment with health care policy on the state level—e.g., Romneycare—so that we can see what works and what doesn’t before liberals try to inflict it on a nation of 300 million people.

Over the past four years, conservative politicians who find it intuitively obvious that government should stay out of health care have found themselves forced to promote “health care reform” policies so liberals can’t accuse them of “not caring.”

But there are plenty of health care reform proposals that would reduce government intervention and free up the private market’s creative forces.  This is what conservatives have been defending when they talk about health care reform—not raiding Medicare to let 26-year-old basement-dwellers stay on their parents’ insurance.

Perhaps Romney should be clearer in distinguishing between free market reforms and government mandates.  Maybe he should be more artful in his phrasing.

But sorry, Dems—our nominee, like a majority of Americans, will remain opposed to Obamacare until the day it’s repealed.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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So Now Democrats Want Bipartisanship

January 26, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Miscellaneous

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Image by Scott Spiegel via Flickr

Ever since Democrats suffered historic, butt-spanking losses in the 2010 midterms, they’ve been whimpering for “bipartisanship,” “cooperation,” “compromise,” “togetherness,” “shared responsibility,” and “national unity.”

President Obama has been coaxing House and Senate Republicans to work together with Democrats to get things done.

Recently New York Senator Charles Schumer, one of the most viciously partisan individuals on the planet (you might say he’s full of “vitriol”), suggested it might be melodious for Democrats and Republicans to sit mingled among one another at Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address, rather than hunkering down battalion-style on opposite sides of the room.

Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn was the first to stupidly take the bait, followed by dozens of other Congressmen including Charles Grassley, Pat Toomey, Mark Kirk, Olympia Snowe, and—surprise!—John McCain.

Obama, it should be remembered, campaigned for president on the promise that he would usher in a “new era of bipartisanship.”

If the Democratic 111th Congress took Obama up on his idea, they had a funny way of showing it.

When they weren’t shutting Republicans out of committee meetings to write the 2009 stimulus bill and health care reform act, they were failing to post bills online with enough time to allow Republicans to read them and offer input.

Democrats rammed health care through inappropriately using budget reconciliation, because they couldn’t keep their 60-vote coalition after Massachusetts elected Republican Scott Brown.

The health care bill was so partisan and calculated to exclude a single strand of GOP DNA that not one Republican voted for it—not because Republicans were stubborn, but because the bill was so egregious that even 34 House Democrats voted against it.  As Governor Haley Barbour noted, the only thing bipartisan about ObamaCare was opposition to it.

Despite the misconception that the GOP covered their ears during the health care reform debate and refused to offer suggestions, House Republicans introduced dozens of their own bills during 2009.  These acts proposed innovative free-market improvements such as allowing sale of health insurance across state lines; expanding tax deductions, vouchers, and health savings accounts for routine care, prescriptions, and long-term care; and enacting medical malpractice tort reform.

None of the Republicans’ bills left the referral stage.  None of the GOP’s suggestions was included in any of the Democratic versions of the bill.

For that divisive, impenetrable firewall between Democrats and Republicans, you can thank then-House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her sterling “bipartisanship.”

Ditto for the cap-and-trade legislation that passed the House in 2009 but stalled in the Senate, and not for Democrats’ lack of trying.  (Coincidentally, the partisan energy bill squeaked by in the House with the same vote as ObamaCare, 219-212.)

The bill, cosponsored by über-leftists Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, was so odious and economy-wrecking that 44 House Democrats voted against it.

(Hey—maybe the 111th Congress was bipartisan, only not in a way that anybody predicted!)

Now that cap-and-trade has died in the Senate, Obama is scheming to have Lisa Jackson and other far-left appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency implement an emissions-limiting plan over the objections of most Americans.

To be clear, I don’t favor bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship.  I wouldn’t have expected Democrats to capitulate to Republicans on everything when they had a majority in both chambers just to be nice.  (I would have expected them to capitulate on everything because they were wrong.)

There are significant philosophical differences between the two major parties.  One party is based on mob rule and is incongruent with the foundational nature of our country, which is not a democracy.  The other party is based on individual rights, rule of law, an inviolate Constitution, and representative government and is congruent with the foundational nature of our country, which is a representative, constitutional republic.

In his speech last night, Obama declared, “[W]e are still bound together as one people… we share common hopes.”  No we don’t, Mr. President.  Liberals hope for the government to take over every aspect of our lives, and conservatives hope to be left alone to figure it all out for themselves.

While conservatives try desperately to cut spending in Washington, Obama’s speech was dominated by pledges to blow trillions more we don’t have on green research and jobs, college degrees for everybody, and high-speed rail and Internet.

Conservatives want to protect us militarily against our enemies, whereas Obama’s speech covered everything under the sun until it meandered into the realm of foreign policy, and even then mostly bragged about the end of the Iraq War, troops returning from Afghanistan in July, and the useless Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

So I favor any action, symbolic or otherwise, that clarifies and amplifies the philosophical, partisan differences between the parties, including maintaining the traditional seating arrangement of one party on each side of the aisle.

Republicans should never fall into the bipartisanship trap Democrats set.

Democrats’ idea of bipartisanship is asking Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman what they think, then doing what Harry Reid wants.


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Democrats’ New ObamaCare Defense: Repeal Is Unconstitutional!

January 19, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

This week the newly majority Republican House of the 112th Congress will vote on repeal of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as The Albatross Around Democrats’ Necks.

Republicans have named their bill the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” proving again that Republicans are more likely to give their legislation names that are corny, contentious, and accurate, whereas Democrats are more likely to give their legislation names that are slick, mollifying, and deceptive.

Pundits expect H.R. 2 to easily clear the House, where ObamaCare narrowly passed 219-212 last March, before the great Republican Reckoning of November 2010.  In that election, not only did Democrats lose a net 63 seats to Republicans, but the remaining Democratic flotsam left after the tsunami realized they ought to consider switching their votes unless they wanted to be swept away in November 2012.

In an insightful analysis, The Weekly Standard reported that in swing districts, just 28% of sitting House Democrats who voted for ObamaCare held onto their seats in the 2010 elections.  In contrast, 57% of sitting Democrats in swing districts who voted against ObamaCare kept their seats.

If all House members still in office after November’s election voted the way they did last spring, all newly sworn-in Republicans voted to repeal ObamaCare, and all newly sworn-in Democrats voted not to repeal ObamaCare, the House would vote for repeal by 255-180—a margin more than 10 times as large as the one by which ObamaCare passed.  That’s assuming no newly sworn-in Democrats—none of whom are saddled with a prior vote for ObamaCare, and some of whom campaigned on the promise that they would have opposed it—will vote to repeal it.

Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the rest of the Democratic leadership have alternately been laughing at and warning against the repeal effort, which they claim is both pathetically useless and grievously dangerous.

Reid announced that Congressional Republicans “have to understand that the health care bill is not going to be repealed…  [They] should get a new lease on life and talk about something else.”  White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs smirked that the repeal effort “is not a serious legislative effort.”

Meanwhile, Obama has insinuated that repeal would be a grave mistake that would send the nation “backward.”  Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius cautioned that repeal could cause 129 million Americans with preexisting conditions to lose their health insurance—a ludicrous claim promptly deconstructed by the Cato Institute.  (New ObamaCare slogan: “If you liked your health insurance, you can’t unkeep it!)

Pelosi plans to march a parade of living-in-their-parents’-basements twentysomething moochers and other sad sacks in front of Congress to talk about the wonders health care reform has already worked for them.  The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel wailed to Ed Schultz on MSNBC, “The Democrats need to tell real-life stories.  They need to bring people into this process and blanket this country with tales of those whose lives have been improved.”

Learning disabled Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee declared that repealing health care is “unconstitutional.”  (Now there’s some irony for you!)

Lee’s brilliant reasoning is that repeal would involve “denying someone their life and liberty without due process.”  She asks, “Can you tell me what’s more unconstitutional than taking away from the people of America their Fifth Amendment rights, their Fourteenth Amendment rights, and the right to equal protection under the law?”  (How about taking away their right to an education that includes a basic understanding of the Constitution?)

Now, even the bill’s authors are admitting that ObamaCare may not reduce costs as planned, and that the government might eventually have to go the way of Massachusetts via price controls and increased taxes, or Tennessee via massive dumping of patients from its rolls.

Yes, it’s true that even after the House repeal bill passes, Reid is likely to refuse to bring H.R. 2 before the Senate, where it probably wouldn’t pass anyway, and certainly wouldn’t clear the 2/3 majority needed to override Obama’s veto.

But Republicans are expected to take over the Senate in droves and bolster their House majority in 2012, at which point they would have enough votes to repeal ObamaCare.  By then, they wouldn’t need 67 votes in the Senate if a Republican president were elected.

In the meantime, House Republicans plan to defund ObamaCare step-by-step via the appropriations process.

Twenty-six states—a majority—are now suing the federal government over the constitutionality of the individual mandate and other ObamaCare provisions.  Democrats previously ridiculed the possibility of challenging ObamaCare in court, but they’re not laughing over that prospect now.

The House vote is the first step on the legislative track toward derailing this heinous legislation.  Congress may not end up being the route by which it is eventually immobilized.  But the momentum to abolish this bill is unstoppable.

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Parsing Obama

April 06, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Obama

Obama_Yelling_Cutout
Image by Floyd Brown via Flickr

Over the weekend a poor lithium battery plant worker from South Carolina named Doris stumbled into a bear trap we’ll call “Obama in a contemplative yet incoherent, feisty yet expansive mood.”

Dear Doris asked Obama a question and was hit with a 2,600-word, 17-minute onslaught that makes any rambling reply Sarah Palin supposedly ever gave seem like the soul of brevity.

To be fair, Doris had placed a tall order: she had asked Obama to sell her on the recently passed health care overhaul legislation via a diatribe that rehashed the history of Medicare, trotted out charges against Bush, and stopped along the way for an analogy involving leaky roofs.

Oh wait—she didn’t; that was what she got.  She asked Obama whether raising taxes in a recession was a good idea.

A prickly Obama jumped in and implied that Doris and millions of other Americans who had been reading about the health care legislation over the past twelve months were badly misinformed, easily misled by huckster politicians, and quite possibly morons.

He launched into one of several internally and externally redundant lists cataloging the reasons for health care reform (which was not Doris’s question).  In a vastly condensed nutshell:

List 1, Point 1: Some people don’t have health insurance.

L1, P2: Some people with health insurance might not have it in the future.

L1, P3: Sometimes insurance companies operate according to the profit motive and fail to chase down policyholders to shower them with free money they don’t have coming to them.

L1, P4: Health care is expensive.

Obama then lamented how all government-instituted health insurance programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP, are running out of money, which means that we need: more government intervention!

Obama embarked on another list explaining what provisions the health care overhaul bill contains (again, not Doris’s question):

L2, P1: Everybody will get coverage.

L2, P2: We will drive insurance companies out of business—which will really improve the chances that they will pay consumers’ claims!

L2, P3: We will get rid of excess, waste, and overload in Medicare (at which point the thinking half of the audience wondered how Obama would accomplish this when he couldn’t even get rid of excess, waste, and overload in his response).

Obama repeated Republicans’ objection that adding 30 million Americans to the insurance rolls might require some sacrifice and would not reduce the deficit by a trillion dollars as claimed—an argument he promptly shot down as the addle-headed straw man it obviously is.

To do this, he told a story about some people living in a house with a leaky roof that dripped water into some of the rooms, and explained why the people in the rooms without leaks would be better off if the government forced them to pay for the leaks in the other rooms.

Missing from his analogy were the caveats that random strangers don’t involuntarily live under the same roof, fixing one person’s leaky roof does not increase the quality of life for someone without a leaky roof, and the government is not a mortgage holder empowered to make these decisions for residents.  But give him points for creativity, I guess.

List time again—this one involving how the administration was going to pay for the health care overhaul:

L3, P1: We will get rid of excess, waste, and overload (see L2, P3).

L3, P2: We will increase taxes.

Finally!  Obama arrived in the same ballpark as Doris’s question.

Obama then noted that Doris pays Medicare taxes but Warren Buffet doesn’t—ignoring the fact that Warren Buffet doesn’t want or need Medicare.  (Doris might not either, but let’s assume for the moment that she does.)

The President proposed that we tax, for the sake of fairness, individuals making over $200,000 or couples making over $250,000 a year—you know, Warren Buffet, basically—an exorbitant amount for services they probably don’t want or need.

He did not address the tax—sorry, “fine”—to be levied on citizens who do not comply with the individual mandate to purchase government-approved health insurance, which is presumably what Doris was alluding to in her question.

Obama closed with a litany of campaign-style talking points: he mentioned for the 1.3 trillionth time that he had inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit; condemned the cost of the prescription drug plan and Medicare Part D; bashed the Iraq war and the Bush tax cuts; bemoaned mounting credit card and home loan debt; cited the stimulus bill and something called FMAP; referenced PAYGO and earmarks and… ugh, I can’t take it anymore.

One wonders what Doris did to deserve the karmic retribution of such a longwinded, tortuous answer, or why Obama decided to inflict it upon her.  Perhaps he was using an innocent victim to try to compensate for twelve months of failing to take a leadership role in pushing his bill through Congress or allay constituents’ concerns about its costs.

If Obama is still going around giving a 17-minute apologia for a fundamental point of the bill he claims Americans are clamoring for but just don’t realize yet, he’s going to have an awfully hard time changing anyone’s mind on his whirlwind national health care snake oil tour.

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Armies of Hate

March 30, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

Tea party rally in Washington DC
Image by Messay Photography via Flickr

ObamaCare supporters who claim that opposition to the recently passed health care legislation is motivated by hatred of empowered minority group members are right about one thing: those who oppose the bill and want it repealed are in fact motivated by hate.

They hate a lot of things they’ve witnessed over the past year, none having anything to do with African Americans, Latinos, or women wielding power in Washington.

Among other things, they hate:

The health care bill:

•    Its unconstitutional individual mandate and general abridgment of liberty

•    Its ban on non-government-sanctioned health care plans, including catastrophic coverage that many young people prefer, and its usurious taxing of “Cadillac plans”

•    Its boneheaded enforcement mechanism which, in addition to being miswritten, would simply lead people to pay a relatively piddly fine instead of buying health insurance until they needed it

•    Its paying only six years of benefits while levying ten years of taxes and claiming to be a deficit reducer

•    Its stubborn and complete absence of free market reforms, such as malpractice tort reform, removal of the ban on selling insurance across state lines, and health insurance tax credits for the self-employed

•    Its excessive length and complexity, and the insufficient time the public and even Congress has been given to read and understand its various iterations

The way in which the bill was passed:

•    The stipulation of repeated, and repeatedly missed, arbitrary deadlines for holding this or that vote, including the infamous Christmas Eve session, for no reason other than political expediency for Democrats

•    The abuse of the Congressional Budget Office’s authority, whereby Democrats fed the CBO misleading parameters, then bragged to the public that the bill saves money, based on the evidence that the CBO was forced to say so, according to the Democrats’ rules of the game

•    The shady deals made to bribe reluctant Congressional Democrats to support the bill

•    The use of a phony, unenforceable, last-minute executive order banning federal funding of abortions, which contradicts the text of the bill, in order to get the last few votes needed for passage in the House

•    The inappropriate use of the budget reconciliation procedure to get the bill over the finish line

Politicians’ willful ignorance of the consequences of socialized medicine elsewhere, including:

•    The horrific rationing of care and substandard service in Britain resulting from regulations enforced by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence

•    The decline in rates of drug and medical device development in countries that nationalize health care, and the frequent use of the U.S. health care system by foreign travelers who can afford it

•    The spiraling costs that follow the addition of a massive entitlement program to a precariously debt-laden economy

Politicians’ refusal to heed the will of the American people:

•    Their shunning the results of polls that for months have shown a majority of Americans opposing the bill, and far more Americans strongly opposing than strongly supporting it

•    Their avoidance of constituents at townhall meetings and their evasion of constituents’ questions

•    Their attempt to obfuscate the public’s understanding of the bill by blurring the definitions of such terms as “tax,” “preexisting condition,” “profit,” and “government-run healthcare”

•    Their insulting the public’s intelligence by claiming that the bill will provide insurance to 32 million more people, yet somehow save money

•    Their disingenuous protestations that they are not looking to expand government control of health care to a single-payer system in the future

•    Their condescending lecturing and patronizing attempts to explain and sell the bill to us thickheaded constituents

•    Their paternalistic insistence that they know better than us what we need, and that we’ll like the bill once we find out what’s in it

The ugly mischaracterization of ObamaCare opponents:

•    As “teabaggers,” a vulgar term never used by any Tea Party patriot

•    As simpleminded, emotional, easily manipulated fear mongers and rabble rousers

•    As racists who supposedly shouted the n-word and spat at black lawmakers marching to Selma—er, to the House vote

Apparently unnoticed by the mainstream media is the fact that numerous, prominent, pasty white males have been instrumental in getting ObamaCare passed, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Vice President Joe Biden, and most of the Democrats in Congress, not to mention the cheerleaders at MSNBC, The New York Times, and every other left-leaning news organization in the country.

Americans are indeed starting to mobilize peaceful armies and reload for another round of the fight against the bill they hate.  But their motivation is not to stigmatize supporters of Obamacare.  It is to stop them.

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Twelve Ways to Stop Obamacare

March 23, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

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History in the making, indeed.  The 100,000 constituents who signed the Senate Conservatives Fund’s Repeal ObamaCare Pledge in the first 48 hours since the House passed Obamacare suggest that historic efforts are about to be made to kill this bill before it can inflict its intended and unintended damage.

Here’s a roadmap of priorities for Obamacare opponents in and out of Washington, to get us from this dispiriting week to January 2013:

1. Challenge the constitutionality of H.R. 3962. Work to invalidate its requirement that all individuals purchase a good or service—in this case, health care—as a condition of being alive, something the federal government has never forced its citizens to do.  Contest the federal government’s ability to unload an unfunded mandate onto states, many of which are experiencing budgetary crises and couldn’t afford a new permanent entitlement even if they wanted one.

2. Encourage states to file lawsuits against the bill. Twelve states have already pledged to do so, including Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.  H.R. 3962, unlike many other comprehensive bills previously passed by Congress, fortunately contains no severability clause that leaves the remainder of the bill intact if one part is struck down in court.  Thus, getting a court to nullify just one part of this bill would overturn the entire thing.  Take these court challenges all the way to the Supreme Court.

3. Encourage states to pass laws preventing residents from being required to buy insurance. Thirty-eight states are considering passing such legislation, and 33 have already introduced bills.  These 33 states include Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—all large states that went for Obama in 2008, which disproves liberals’ inevitable charge that rebel states are just rural flyover country filled with racist rednecks.  Virginia (another Obama state) is the first state to have passed such legislation, through an effort led by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.  Idaho has also passed legislation protecting its residents from the federal mandate.

4. Encourage states to block enforcement of the bill. Refuse to fund it.  How can states that are millions of dollars in the red pay for a massive new program dumped on them by the Fed?

5. Give Congressmen an earful during their spring Congressional recess. Make last summer’s townhalls look like giddy autograph signings.  Jam Congressmen’s schedules with meetings; pressure Senators not to sign the House’s reconciliation measure; pressure House members not to sign any reconciliation measure revised by the Senate.

6. Challenge the reconciliation process. Get the Senate parliamentarian to rule (correctly) that the House’s Social Security-related provision is inappropriate for inclusion in a reconciliation bill, per the Byrd Rule, and must be removed.

7. Change the reconciliation bill. Force the Senate to make changes to the reconciliation bill before voting on it, so that the House has to vote again on the Senate’s version; then force the House to make changes so the Senate has to vote again; and back and forth.  Strip away enough dissatisfied votes from at least one chamber to prevent the reconciliation measure from being passed, thus letting the ugly Senate bill with its backroom deals and tax on costly union health plans stand intact and paving the way for repeal.

8. Hold up the reconciliation process. Encourage GOP Senators to tie up voting on the reconciliation bill in the Senate by proposing an indefinite number of amendments.  Although debate on a reconciliation bill is limited to 20 hours (about one second per 43,000 citizens affected by the legislation), there are no limitations on the number of amendments that may be proposed.

9. Take over the House, Senate, and Presidency. Vote Democrats out of Congress in 2010 and 2012, and Obama out of office in 2012, and elect conservative Republicans who promise to repeal Obamacare.  Support candidates who campaign on the promise to repeal Obamacare as their first act of the 113th Congress in January 2013.  In the same way that Scott Brown annihilated his opponent in Massachusetts by campaigning on one promise—to vote against the Senate health care bill—all Republican Congressional candidates in November 2010 and 2012 should campaign on the sole promise to repeal Obamacare.  Dozens of Representatives and Senators have already pledged to repeal the bill, as have hundreds of 2010 Congressional candidates, including Senate hopefuls Marco Rubio in Florida, Chuck DeVore in California, Michael Williams in Texas, and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania.

10. Repeal H.R. 3962.

11. Amend the Constitution. If necessary, get three-quarters of the states—perhaps the same 38 considering legislation banning the mandate—to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit the federal mandate, thus invalidating the bill.

12. Encourage noncompliance with the bill as a form of civil disobedience. There may be 17,000 new IRS agents under H.R. 3962, but there are 170,000,000 of us who oppose the bill.

As Paul Ryan said in the House Sunday night: “If this passes, the quest to reclaim the American idea is not over.  The fight to reapply our founding principles is not finished; it’s just a steeper climb.  And it is a climb that we will make.”

Let’s give ourselves a boost on the backs of the complacent and wholly unprepared socialized health care supporters who think the fight is over and they have won.

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Slaughter in the House

March 17, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Columns, Health Care

This week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to ask Democratic Representatives to demonstrate their unconditional endorsement of the health care reform bill before Congress by—not voting for it.

In a parliamentary trick known as the “Slaughter Solution”—brought to you by Rule Committee Chair Louise Slaughter, who was last seen on TV at the Blair House summit carping about a constituent’s used dentures—the House would not ever have to actually vote for the unpopular Senate bill in order to pass it.  (Weren’t Democrats the ones clamoring for an “up-or-down vote” for the last three months?)

Instead, according to Slaughter, House Democrats could simply vote for a reconciliation package written to remove any unsavory provisions from the Senate bill and bring it more in line with liberal House members’ liking.  The package would contain what’s known as a “hereby” rule declaring that the Senate bill would be “deemed” to have been “already passed” by the House.  The reconciliation package would be sent to the Senate for approval, and then it and the original Senate bill would go to the President for signature.

The only nagging detail in this plan is that Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution states that every bill “shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate” before it may go to the President.  In other words, a bill must be passed—not “deemed to have been passed”—by both chambers first.

In case this wasn’t clear, the Founding Fathers reiterated, “[T]he votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively.”  (Note: “Yea” in this case does not mean, “Yea, I don’t have to vote for the bill!”)

This little provision was clarified by a 1998 Supreme Court ruling that both chambers must pass identical versions of the bill, thus bestowing their joint approval upon it.  Only minor, budget-related adjustments are permitted through reconciliation.  Conference committees between the two chambers typically meet to work out differences, and then both chambers must vote again on bills with identical wording.

On the off-chance that this still isn’t clear to the Chair of the Rule Committee: Both chambers must vote on the same bill.  One chamber may not pass another bill “deeming” the first bill to be passed and pre-amending it before it is voted on.

In addition to its flagrant violation of the Constitution, Congressional Democrats’ plan involving the Slaughter Rule is based on a flawed reasoning process.  Specifically, House Democrats seem to believe that because the Senate has the upper hand, the House may do to the Senate bill whatever they want in order to appease their constituents.  In the House’s view, the Senate has had their turn with the bill—now it’s the House’s chance to have a go at it.

It is true that most of the 59 Democrats in the Senate who voted for Obamacare would probably accept almost any version of the bill that could pass the House at this point, rather than see a year of effort, their plans for health care reform, and Obama’s presidency go down the drain.

But there’s a fundamental tactical reason that one chamber of Congress is not allowed to proceed according to the Slaughter Solution.

Namely: what if Senate Democrats vehemently opposed the House’s preferred version of the bill?  What right would House Democrats have to trample on the Senate’s bill and unicamerally morph it into one of their own choosing?

What if passing the reconciliation bill required, for example, offering a series of bribes to House members that made the Cornhusker Kickback and Louisiana Purchase look like chump change—a tactic Obama has already signaled he is open to, and one that seems necessary to seal the deal?

Suppose the House inserts objectionable sweetheart deals for the states of representatives who are wavering on the bill.  Then Democrats are right back where they started after Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts, with one chamber being badgered to approve the other chamber’s distasteful version of the bill without having substantive say over its content.

The Slaughter Solution, in addition to being unconstitutional, anarchic, and embarrassingly and transparently desperate, sets an ugly precedent, whereby one chamber of Congress may steamroll the other with impunity, widen the historic trust gap between the chambers, and pass radical legislation that both chambers have not fundamentally agreed upon.

The Slaughter Solution has been referred to as a “self-executing” rule.  Based on the initial reaction of voters to this ruse, Representatives who vote for it may find that this adjective soon comes to describe their careers in Congress.

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Gambling on Amnesia

February 24, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Columns, Health Care

“This president is a real slow learner.” – Oscar Goodman, Mayor of Las Vegas

Speaking of gambling, President Obama has subpoenaed weary Democrats and disgusted Republicans to a Blair House summit tomorrow for a day-long policy-palooza to be broadcast on C-SPAN for Americans who didn’t get enough of the health care reform debate last year.  Obama has decided to wager what little respectability he has left on the hope that the American people will be charmed by his vision of health care reform, will develop amnesia, and will forget everything they hate about the bills passed by Congress last year.

The Associated Press announces that the new proposal released by the President “is important, but not as critical as the political skill Obama can apply to an impasse that seems close to hopeless in a pivotal congressional election year.”

Hmm…  Let’s tally up the campaigns Obama has fought and lost using his “political skill” over the past four months: securing the 2016 Olympics for Chicago, electing Creigh Deeds governor of Virginia, reelecting John Corzine governor of New Jersey, getting UN members to agree to a climate change accord in Copenhagen, and electing Martha Coakley Senator in Massachusetts.  And of course his year-long crusade to sell Congress’s health care plan to the public, which resulted in voters increasing their opposition to the plan in direct proportion to the number of syllables Obama emitted in his attempts to explain it.

Obama views the populace as a huddled mass of slow learners to whom he must explicate Congress’s monstrous health care legislation over and over until it penetrates their thick skulls.

In fact, it is Obama who is the slow learner.  Americans have learned about the bill, debated the bill, and rejected the bill; implicitly and explicitly, at townhall meetings and in polls and at the ballot box; over and over, for a year.

But Obama promises us he has a new proposal that incorporates the best of the House and Senate bills.  The White House posted Obama’s proposal online Monday morning to allow the public to see what bold, fresh ideas the President has to offer.

The verdict: Obama might as well have taken the Senate version of the health care bill and stuck Groucho Marx glasses, nose, and mustache on it.

Obama has been trying to entice Republican lawmakers to attend the summit by boasting that there are “Republican elements” in his proposal—by which he means that there are Democratic elements in it that a few liberal Republicans have been caught on tape saying might be tolerable, if dealt with in isolation, if massively reworked from their present form, and if included only in conjunction with real free-market reforms.

Even AP admits that Obama has nothing new to offer: “Realistically, he’s just hoping to win a big enough slice to silence the talk of a failing presidency.”

Obama’s one significant innovation is increasing the federal government’s power to regulate insurance premiums: “[H]ealth insurers must submit their proposed premium increases to the State authority or Secretary for review…  [I]f a rate increase is unreasonable and unjustified, health insurers must lower premiums, provide rebates, or take other actions to make premiums affordable.  A new Health Insurance Rate Authority will be created to provide needed oversight at the Federal level.”

So Obama proposes to improve on a massive, bloated bill that explodes government intervention in the private sector and is hated for that very reason by… adding more government intervention.  Sounds like a winner!

Even Democrats aren’t on board with the ideas in this proposal, at least to the degree that they were when the House and Senate passed their versions of the legislation last year.  Congressmen up for reelection this fall received the message sent by Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts loud and clear.  The only federal officials who still want to ram this thing through are Obama, Senators not up for reelection, Senators up for reelection who know they’re going to lose, and Representatives from insanely liberal districts that will boot them if they don’t vote for the bill.

And even Democrats don’t really believe anything will come of Thursday’s meeting.  Every time the media asks Democratic Congressional leaders about their goals for the Blair House summit, they respond with the same bromides about how they believe Thursday’s meeting will help “provide affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans.”  How, specifically, will it do that?  Specifically?

If anything is to be passed, it will have to be through budget reconciliation—and many commentators say Democrats don’t even have enough votes for that anymore.

The Chicago Tribune recently called the House and Senate legislation “zombie” bills, noting that neither chamber likes the other’s version, the public hates both, and the only reason the bills are still wandering around is that Congressional leaders are hinting that they will try to merge them through reconciliation.  The Tribune condemns reconciliation as “convoluted.  Confusing.  And unnecessary.  The Democrats need to reconcile themselves to what Americans are telling them about these health care bills: They’re too complicated and too expensive.”

Obama isn’t the only slow learner in Washington.

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Dems’ Options: Senate-Packing, Queen Olympia, Mass Kidnapping

January 20, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

Yesterday Democrats suffered a mortifying trouncing in Massachusetts’ special Senate election, in which Republican Scott Brown zoomed from 17 points behind Democrat Martha Coakley in the polls less than two weeks ago to winning by a handy 5%.

As AP reported, “Brown’s victory was so sweeping, he even won in the Cape Cod community where Kennedy, the longtime liberal icon, died of brain cancer last August.”

To be fair, Coakley did manage to capture 84% of Cambridge, Amherst, and Provincetown, which tend to serve as bellwethers for—well, themselves.

Coakley’s complaint that her poll numbers started to drop right after the Senate passed its version of the health care bill on Christmas rang a bit hollow, given that she campaigned vociferously to vote for that very health care bill if elected to Congress.

In the wake of the clear message sent to them by the people of Massachusetts, Democrats are slowly backing away from their suicidal insistence on passing a bill only 33% of Americans favor, considering more bipartisan/free-market solutions, and resolving to address healthcare reform in a more piecemeal fashion.

Gotcha!  Actually, Democrats are considering a number of insane, Mission Impossible-style workaround strategies to thwart the will of the people and pass their health care bill without a filibuster-proof Senate.  These include:

•    Forcing the House to pass the Senate bill, word-for-word, with nary a change in punctuation.  This option would throw out all of the heatedly negotiated agreements between the two chambers conducted in the past few weeks, including the major union employee exemption to the excise tax on “Cadillac plans.”  It would also ignore many of the other differences between the bills for which Democrats in the House say they cannot accept the House version as is, such as language on abortion funding.  House Democrat Bart Stupak, author of the Stupak Amendment, reported on Monday that “House members will not vote for the Senate bill.  There’s no interest in that.”  He added that when the notion was proposed at a caucus meeting among Democrats, “It went over like a lead balloon.”

•    Tricking the House into passing the Senate bill and promising them that it will be morphed into a bill more to their liking “later.”

•    Using the byzantine budget reconciliation process to ram the bill through.  This would subject weary Americans to several more months of reports of Democrats using sneaky, behind-closed-doors, parliamentary procedures no one understands to get their way—a surefire Democratic victory strategy for the midterm elections in November.

If these tactics don’t work, it is conceivable that Democrats may try any of the following makeshift schemes (I hate to give them any ideas, but it’s probably best that we be forewarned):

•    Abolishing the filibuster.  Democrats would of course reinstate the filibuster in time for the November elections, when they will lose one or both chambers of Congress and will need it as protection against devious, heavy-handed Republicans.

•    Concocting some fake scandal involving Scott Brown, or another Republican from a state with a Democratic governor, that forces him to resign, thus allowing the governor of said state to appoint a Democratic replacement Senator.

•    Crowning Olympia Snowe Queen of the Senate and letting her rewrite the bill to her specifications, including funding for her own blueberry farm and stock options in L.L. Bean.

•    “Packing the Senate” à la FDR’s court-packing scheme in the 1930s.

•    Kidnapping Republican legislators and replacing them with genetically engineered Manchurian candidate clones who have been brainwashed to vote for the bill.

Think these scenarios are outlandish?  Democrats have demonstrated that, as House Minority Leader John Boehner noted, “They are going to try every way, shape, and form to shove this bill down the throats of the American people.”

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi commented that the special Senate election is not a referendum on the health care bill, because—get this—Massachusetts already has universal coverage.  She elaborated, “Massachusetts has health care.  The rest of the country would like to have that too.  So we don’t say a state that already has health care should determine whether the rest of the country should.”  No, I think a state that has already suffered its own version of Obamacare is trying to do us all a favor by warning us about what a nightmare it would be.

Democrats have made it through the town hall gauntlet, they’ve cheated death in squeakers of votes in both chambers, they’ve gone on record in the past 48 hours insisting that they will get health care reform “one way or another” and that “health care will pass no matter what.”  Why should they stop now?

I have one more suggestion for Democrats, which they are less likely to consider than any of the ideas above, including the kidnapping plot, but which might just save some of their skins.

Listen to the American people and kill the damn bill.

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Health Care Bill Kicks Off Farewell Tour in Bay State

January 17, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

Supporters of the Democrats’ health care bill offer the following take on Tuesday’s special election in Massachusetts between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha “Kennedy” Coakley, a plea they hope will draw on voters’ sense of fairness and magnanimity:

If Brown wins, the health care bill will not be passed.  It is a terrible shame that something this nation has frittered away a year debating and Congress has spent a year drafting, something that may not get another chance again—if at all—for a whole generation, could be dismantled because of the obstinacy of one man who wins a special election in a tiny state.  Brown may even derail Obama’s entire agenda.

As if it will do any good, here’s a point-by-point rebuttal of this selfless appeal by Democrats to our leftist instincts:

(1) The point of a debate is to have two sides present their cases and see which makes the better argument.  The outcome is not predetermined, much as Democrats would like it to be and have tried to make it so.  Republicans spoke, Democrats spoke, and the American people made up their minds: Republicans won.

(2) The fact that we spent a year debating this horrendous bill, in all its myriad forms, is indeed deplorable, when we could have been talking about how to encourage the Iranian protestors, win in Afghanistan, or abolish the Department of Education.  But just because gallons of ink have been spilled and billions of megabytes have been transmitted and trillions of cubic feet of C02 have been exhaled thrashing out numerous claims made by Democrats and debunked by Republicans, doesn’t mean we have to embrace the fallacy of sunken costs and pass something that stinks just to rationalize our squandered effort.

Making a $100 down payment on a $1,000 dishwasher offered by a fraudulent mail-order company that folds does not obligate us to send the company the other $900 so our first $100 isn’t wasted.  If any Democrats want to silently change their positions on the bill and pretend they felt that way all along, I promise you that Republicans will be tactful enough to go along with the charade.

(3) If it isn’t right to pass this legislation in the current generation, just as it wasn’t right to pass it in Hillary Clinton’s generation, or Truman’s generation, or FDR’s generation, then we can afford to wait at least another generation to debate it again, if liberals really insist on holding and losing this contest once more.

(4) Saying that the special election in Massachusetts could destroy the whole health care plan is like saying that the failure of an asteroid to demolish the court building where Bernard Madoff was sentenced destroyed his chance for freedom.  The success of this health care bill has been dangling like an anvil from a spider web since last summer.  The special election in Massachusetts is only the latest in many gusts of wind to threaten to crash the Democrats’ hopes to the ground.

(5) Saying that the travesty of Democrats’ health care bill not passing is due to Scott Brown’s stubbornness upon being elected is like saying that the travesty of Confederate soldiers’ dying is due to Abraham Lincoln’s stubbornness upon being elected.  In addition to its being the right course of action, if Brown wins and votes no on the bill, it will be because he was explicitly elected for that purpose alone, to take that specific action by itself.  Indeed, he barely had to say a word about any of the other issues in order to win fanatical political and financial support from Republicans, Independents, and Democrats in Massachusetts and across the country.

Promising to kill the health care bill is not just the biggest, but the only functional plank in Brown’s platform.  Senator Brown could turn around next month and introduce a bill using Medicare funds to subsidize partial-birth abortions for illegal Islamist immigrant tax cheats with Al-Qaeda ties, and he would still be Republicans’ hero for having voted down the health care bill.

(6) If Obama isn’t buried under a pile of political debris after his dustup with the 41st Senator, and dares to try to foist cap-and-trade, Stimulus II, or other reckless spending debacles onto a battered and bruised Congress, he will find it even harder to pass such legislation than he did the health care bill, and that is saying something.  Indeed, one of the fringe benefits of voting for Brown is that he will block not only the health care bill but anything like it that comes down the chute.

As an opponent of the health care bill, here’s my take on Tuesday’s election, which I hope will appeal to any remaining connection to reality liberals may have:

Even if Brown loses, the health care bill still will not be passed.  There are too many gaping discrepancies between the two versions of the bill to be reconciled; Blue Dog Democrats are too nervous about their own reelection campaigns this fall; and soon-to-be-elected Republican majorities in the House and Senate will do everything in their power to reverse any steps taken to enact this wretched bill.

They may even derail Obama’s entire agenda.

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