By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
After a yearlong, rancorous debate--and over the objections of the American people--the House of Representatives voted to establish a socialized healthcare system in the United States, something that has been a dream of progressives and Democrats for at least the last 60 years.
The new program, which by most measures is the largest single new entitlement program to be enacted since the New Deal, is a giant leap down the road toward making the United States a European-style social democracy in which the government, organized labor, and big business work together to reach welfare state objectives at the expense of economic growth and considerable personal liberty in the marketplace.
With Sunday’s vote, the die has been cast; it is highly unlikely that a new GOP majority in Congress--which many seem to believe is now all but guaranteed--will vote to repeal the measure come January 2011. Even if the Republicans do, it is a certainty that President Barack Obama will refuse to sign it. And no one is predicting there will be enough Republican votes alone to override the veto he will be sure to issue.
In the end, the whole matter turned on the issue of abortion. Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, who became a hero to the forces of opposition last fall when he forced the House to adopt an ironclad prohibition barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortion and abortion-related services as part of any healthcare overhaul, cut a last-minute deal with the White House that has made him a goat. In exchange for providing the handful of votes Speaker Nancy Pelosi needed to get the bill through the House, Stupak received a guarantee that President Obama would issue an executive order giving Stupak and his allies what they wanted.
For his efforts, the Michigan Democrat is now being attacked, perhaps unfairly, by many of the same groups that lionized him after the earlier vote. Stupak never promised to be a vote against healthcare and always made clear he wanted to vote for reform, but only if his concerns about the federal government’s funding of abortion were addressed. On Sunday, he got what he wanted and delivered his votes--and is now being attacked for behaving as it was always clear he would. No one should have failed to take him at his word and, in agreeing to exchange the votes he controlled for an executive order that addressed his concerns, he acted honorably--or at least he believes he did--even if a presidential executive order fails to carry the same weight as a law passed by Congress.
It is now a question of whether or not President Obama lives up to his end of the bargain, and that his subordinates through his administration honor both the letter and spirit of the order he has promised to issue. This is a legitimate concern, one that should capture the attention of the media as well as congressional overseers of executive branch activities.