September 11, 2009

"Reconciliation!" Gushes The Hill

Hatched by Dafydd

It's an article remarkable for its straightforward boosterism of the most extreme congressional tactic Democrats might use to pass ObamaCare.

Today in the Hill -- the largest circulation newspaper written for (and about) Congress -- we read an article (bylined Sam Youngman) that is so enthusiastic about the mounting likelihood that Democrats will try to pass ObamaCare by abusing the reconciliation process, bypassing the Byrd Rule, that -- well, as the title of this post says, the paper positively gushes over the prospect:

By offering Republicans olive branches during his address to Congress on Wednesday, Obama has set up a win-win situation. If GOP lawmakers embrace compromise [by which Youngman means "surrender" -- DaH], a healthcare bill would pass Congress easily. But the more likely scenario is that Republicans will continue to oppose Obama’s plan, and the president later this fall will be able to note he tried to strike a deal with the GOP but could not.

Darn Republicans, refusing to compromise on their "principles" even for the sake of the president! But hey, at least he tried.

Republicans contend that the use of reconciliation would be at odds with Obama’s call for bipartisanship during his 2008 presidential campaign. But Obama has countered that argument in recent days by forcefully resurrecting the anti-Washington rhetoric that got him elected.

He's winning -- he's winning -- he countered their argument!

"The time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed," Obama said. "Now is the season for action."

And there's the rallying cry, baldly stated without comment. Why not go whole hog? Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

The Hill notes not a single substantive reason why reconciliation should not be used in this case; but there are several, as everyone at the paper knows well:

  • It's supposed to be used for noncontroversial changes made to programs to keep them within the bounds set by the budget resolution. But ObamaCare is a wildly controversial, radical rewrite of the entire American health-care system
  • On a related argument, it's unprecedented to use the reconciliation process to establish a huge new government agency -- or series of agencies. That's not what it's for at all, at all.
  • It's not to be used for programs that will add more to the deficit that what is already accounted for in the current budget resolution, which calls for deficit neutral health-care reform; but the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and even estimates by the administration of President Barack H. Obama have admitted that it's likely to add hundreds of billions to more than a trillion dollars to the ten-year deficit. (Obama now says it won't, but that doesn't change the fact that the CBO says it will.)

    Unless the budget resolution instructs the committees to bankrupt the nation, that violates at least two tests of the Byrd Rule prohibiting using reconciliation to sneak budget-busting bills through the Senate without allowing a filibuster.

  • Almost certainly, the combination of Republicans and moderate to conservative Democrats will force a promise from the leadership in both chambers not to use reconciliation to radicalize the program beyond what was sent them. Thus the leadership would have to brazenly deceive its own party members, as well as the opposition, and lie like a dead mongoose as it makes promises it has no intention of keeping.
  • Its use would require a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian that was utterly mendacious: He would have to rule that none of the above was true, knowing his own ruling was as false as a Bernie Madoff investment. Either that, or the Presiding Officer would have to tell the Parliamentarian to go fly a hike on a short pier; then the P.O. just rules however the Democrats want.

Yet the only argument against the reconciliation jam-down that The Hill prints is the feeble, amorphous claim that it would be "at odds with Obama’s call for bipartisanship during his 2008 presidential campaign," which call everyone and his unkey's moncle knows is "no longer operative," as a previous liberal president's aides were fond of saying. The Hill, in other words, is not-so-subtlely implying that (a) the GOP is the only group on Capitol Hill that opposes the idea of abusing reconciliation, and (b) that they have no substantive argument whatsoever against it.

This is a classic technique of supporting one side while paying lip service to bilateralism: "It's not our fault that Republicans have nothing to say in their own defense (that we see fit to print)."

If anyone still thinks The Hill is just telling it like it is, they tip their hand with this one-sentence graf:

Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-S.C.) outburst on Wednesday was an unexpected gift to the White House, accentuating Obama’s point that bitter politics is getting in the way of improving the healthcare of Americans.

Let's review the bidding:

  • Obama said that the government plan would not apply to illegal immigrants.
  • But Wilson (R-SC, 92%) remembers well how he and his Republican colleagues in the House tried several times to enact provisions to ensure that only legal residents received the benefits of the government plan.
  • But House Democrats shot down each and every attempt. So now there is no way, in the House plan that Obama supports, to distinguish or discriminate between those here legally and those here illegally: The Democrats closed off all avenues of enforcement.
  • Thus it is a certainty that illegal immigrants will receive health-care benefits from the government plan, and probably (by law) from all approved private plans as well, if those plans are restricted to the same screening process as the government plan
  • .

  • And it's also a certainty that the president himself knows this. He is certainly keeping close tabs on the progress of ObamaCare through Congress.
  • Thus, regardless of whether it was impudent of Rep. Wilson to point it out during the speech, Barack Obama is, in fact, lying when he says the plan won't cover illegal immigrants; Joe Wilson was rude but right.

The Hill could have noted this rather important point, since it saw fit to bring up Wilson's cri de coeur in the first place; the newspaper, too, could not possibly be unaware of the House Democrats' actions. Yet it failed even to mention Wilson's side, as if he had none and was simply an unruly child making a big noise.

More gushing and ardent support:

The president also said that the White House has made every effort to include Republicans and their ideas in the process, but blamed "unyielding partisanship" for the absence of compromise.

“Part of the frustration I have is, is that on the Republican side there are wonderful people who really operated on the basis of pragmatism and common sense and getting things done,” Obama said. “Those voices have been -- been, I think, shouted down on that side.”

The Hill allows Republicans no defense; had they done so, the GOP -- and Democrats who don't call themselves "progressives," the forgotten members of the anti-ObamaCare alliance -- might have invoked principle as a reason to go against the popular will... even if ObamaCare were according to the popular will, which polling indicates is actually just a liberal fantasy and Obamic talking point.

Pragmatically speaking, we could nationalize all the industries in the United States, sell them to foreign investors, and use the proceeds to mail checks to everyone below the poverty line; it's just common sense! But it would still be a monstrous evil, because of the vital principle of property rights.

And that is one of the very same principles opposing ObamaCare: It would force all responsible Americans to pay a great price in order to benefit a bunch of irresponsible dopes who don't want to buy health insurance, even though they can well afford it... yet who expect still to be given medical treatment if they fall ill or injure themselves. (And pragmatically speaking, their expectation is reasonable, because we've always done so and probably always will.)

But besides property rights, there is also the principle of liberty: People should have the greatest freedom possible within the constrains of living in a society. Even when a problem exists that can only be solved with some degree of collectivism -- for example, those born with pre-existing medical infirmities, such as a congenital heart defect, that would prevent them from being able to buy medical insurance -- the collectivist policy we pursue should be the one that least interferes with the market, allowing the greatest number of Americans to keep as much freedom of choice as possible.

In this case, liberty demands that we either subsidize those deserving unfortunates, or else create an "assigned risk" pool, from which every insurer must accept some money-losing bad risks; rather than radically recreate the entire system with the government controlled (and ultimately government run) scheme of ObamaCare.

But again, The Hill is uninterested in any principled arguments that opponents of ObamaCare care to make; the time for bickering and game-playing is over... we need action, action, action! Pragmatic common sense dictates that we need to get things done.

The president went so far as to warn Republicans that he "will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it."

No comment; I mean that The Hill offers "no comment" on the One's angry dismissal of any dissent to his plan as mere dog-in-the-manger partisanship. The article doesn't even mention another article in Wednesday's The Hill, in which House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH, 92%) says Obama has refused even to meet with Republicans on health-care reform since April:

Boehner told reporters that the president has not invited House GOP leaders to the White House for meetings on healthcare reform since the end of April.

Earlier this year, GOP leaders sent a letter to the president in May stating that they would like to work with the administration to find "common ground" on healthcare reform.

But the administration responded with a tersely worded letter indicating that they had healthcare reform under control.

How might that comport with Obama's accusation that the GOP "have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it?" The article not only doesn't essay an answer, it doesn't even trouble to raise the question.

But to the fair to the article, it does make one weak-tea attempt to allow Republicans to speak for themselves, rather than be interpreted (into nonexistence) by the president. I'm certain it's only the vicissitudes of fate that the GOP side is relegated to the last two paragraphs of the article:

Republicans, predictably wary of Obama's maneuvering, said if Obama is setting up a defense of reconciliation, it will do little to blunt the blowback from both Congress and the American people.

“If Democrats use controversial insider tactics to force a proposal that the majority of Americans disagree with, not only would they guarantee bipartisan opposition, but they would also spark a new level of outrage among a huge majority of people in this country," said a Senate Republican leadership aide.

The same has been said by numerous prominent Republicans who would be only too happy to be named. But I reckon it's easier to dismiss an "anonymous" warning. (Actually, we don't even know whether the aide demanded anonymity; that might have been entirely the decision of the putative journalist, Sam Youngman.)

All in all, this is a disgraceful performance from a newspaper I've always held in high regard. Alas, The Hill is just another casualty in the "progressive" Kulturkampf, where every least element of life must be politicized and partisan-ized. In particular, all sources of information and argument must be squeezed through a totalitarian tunnel, filtering out all opposition thoughts and words, silencing one side and then claiming they have nothing to say.

Or as Robert Anton Wilson wrote once, channeling Lemuel Gulliver:

And so these Learned Men, having Inquir'd into the Case for the Opposition, discover'd that the Opposition had no Case and were Devoid of Merit, which was what they Suspected all along, and they arriv'd at this Happy Conclusion by the most Economical and Nice of all Methods of Enquiry, which was that they did not Invite the Opposition to confuse Matters by Participating in the Discussion.

In other words, "Shut up," he explained.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 11, 2009, at the time of 5:08 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Marcum

The overall agenda needs to be re-seized.

The real crisis is as follows:

The overall economy
Fiscal stability

We need for Congress to spend time on our priorities as noted. Until these are addressed, we should not spend much time on health care.

I would suggest no healthcare legislation gets considered until:

Unemployment is below 7%
GDP growth is steady at 2.5% annually
The annual deficit is reduced to less than 5% of GDP

This also means recasting the unspent stimulus dollars toward something effective in creating long-term value, like nuclear power plants.

Health care ideas and reforms can be studied and debated in the interim, but legislation can be actively pursued in chamber only after these other priorities have received sufficient time and attention and these goals have been achieved.

To do anything other is economic suicide and will make health care reform meaningless. Joblessness kills. The greatest source of bankruptcy is not health care but joblessness.

This is what we the people want and our employees in Washington need to start paying attention to our needs or they are going to have to be summarily fired.

Let's demand full attention to our agenda before anything else:

The overall economy
Fiscal stability

Congress, Barak -- we the people, your employers (not your subjects) order you to adjust your priorities to address the issues noted above before distracting us with a false health care priority.

The above hissed in response by: Marcum [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2009 5:59 PM

The following hissed in response by: cdor

In Parlimentary parlance, "Here, Here" Dafydd and Marcus.

I was very happy to tune in to our President just in time to hear him praise the bipartisan previous accomplishments in establishing two marvelous programs of Social Security and Medicare, which are currently running a 60 trillion dollar unfunded liability. He forgot to mention the part after the comma.

The above hissed in response by: cdor [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2009 8:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bart Johnson

Is Sam the son of Henny? Perhaps that would explain an apparent attempt at comedy being passed
off as journalism.

The above hissed in response by: Bart Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 13, 2009 3:50 PM

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