By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
The ongoing public debate over healthcare reform is actually an exercise in self-government. Given the importance of the issue to each and every American it is not surprising to see Middle America insert itself into the debate in an informed if not always thoughtful manner.
Congressional supporters of Obamacare probably expected an easy public relations hit when they scheduled their healthcare forums during the August recess. They expected, no doubt, to interface with constituents, explain the bill, explain why their constituents needed to support it and gain some favorable coverage in the newspapers back home.
What they found was something quite different. Unlike many in Congress, the folks who turned out for the these events had actually read the bill—in this case H.R. 3200, the healthcare reform package pushed forward by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her leadership team. And, having read the bill, the critics of Obamacare were able to slice through the arguments in favor of it like a chain saw slicing through a barrel of fish.
Democrats in the United States Senate, however, are apparently not as naïve as their colleagues on the other side of the Capitol. They are pushing ahead with reform legislation fully intent on keeping it away from the prying eyes of the American people, if that's what it takes.
The Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, who have made a show of openness with an initial round of posting on the committee's website, are nonetheless reserving the right to keep the final version a secret. On Wednesday, committee Democrats voted down an amendment, sponsored by retiring Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., that would require the final legislative language as well as the Congressional Budget Office's final cost estimates be available online for 72 hours before the committee votes on it. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., who voted against Bunning's amendment, derided the idea as too cumbersome, saying it would take committee staff at least two weeks to write the bill that way and that its only purpose would be to delay the final vote.
Baucus, who is routinely re-elected with ease, should be happy he does not have to face the voters in 2010. The arrogance of power, the business-as-usual approach he exudes on an issue so serious would no doubt produce his defeat at the polls. The Democrats, President Barack Obama included, are in a mad rush to pass healthcare legislation—not because the country wants it but because their special interest groups and big donors demand it. The American people may tell pollsters they support, in overwhelming numbers, a vague, undefined idea of reform where everyone is covered and no one has to worry, but they clearly don't want the reform the Democrats are offering.
This lesson has not been lost on the Senate Finance Committee Democrats, who understand the more the people know about healthcare reform the less they like it. But their solution, to keep the people in the dark, is perhaps the most wrong-headed move to come out of the nation's capital since Bill Clinton decided midnight municipal basketball games were an effective approach to fighting crime.