By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
This, from the party that claims to be all about transparency, in today's Washington Post:
"It's more insider and process-oriented than most people want to know," the speaker said in a roundtable discussion with bloggers Monday about the reconciliation package. "But I like it," she said, "because people don't have to vote on the Senate bill."
So Speaker Pelosi will "deem" the $875 billion Senate healthcare reform bill to have already passed the House, a process the Post's editorial page says "threatens to turn into something unseemly." Threatens? It turned unseemly a long time ago--let's recall the Cornhusker Compromise--which is why the speaker can't get enough votes to pass it. So she's turned to parliamentary sleight-of-hand in an effort to get the measure passed in the next few days. It would allow wavering Democrats to say they never voted for the bill--or against it. My colleague Robert Schlesinger wrote yesterday that the whole thing reminds him of John Kerry's famous "I was for it before I was against it." I agree.
Pelosi explained to the bloggers why she doesn't have the votes: "We don't have the votes yet because we don't have a bill yet." That's the whole problem here: The American people know there isn't a bill yet, no one's read it, and yet it's being "deemed" as having passed Congress. She's right about one thing: It's more insider and process-oriented than most people want to know. The problem is not process in general, it's this process. The process most people want is the one that pays for every piece of legislation before it can be considered--called "pay-go"--and not the process that rams through unread legislation that costs over three quarters of a trillion dollars without a vote.
The Cincinnati Enquirer put it this way today in its lead editorial:
Real debate has been sidestepped, while Democrats played a childish game of Catch-22 with healthcare legislation: Congressional leaders wouldn't allow Republican proposals to be formally considered, then turned around and accused them of not having alternatives. Among themselves, Democrats cut a series of backroom deals that in any other context would be considered criminal payoffs and bribery...
This disgusting process, which Democrats brazenly wish to bring to conclusion this week, is being done with little regard for the opinions of a clear majority of Americans who, while they may believe healthcare reform is necessary, think this particular approach will take our nation down the wrong economic path.
While a lot of people have a problem with the substance of the administration's healthcare reform agenda, even more people have a problem with a process that is not accountable, fiscally responsible, or transparent. It's one more example of the arrogance in Washington that is making voters so angry.