By a vote of 219-212, the Senate version of the health care reform bill was passed in the House of Representatives. Apparently, the small group of pro-life Democrats holding out for stronger language on federal funding of abortions was the difference of passing or failing.
Earlier in the day, drama queen MI Representative Bart Stupak held a press conference, flanked by his group, and told America that he had been bought off after all. His 30 pieces of silver come in the form of dollar appropriations to his local airport. And, he was assured that President Obama would sign an Executive Order to the notion that no federal dollars would be used for abortion. Stupak is an attorney. He knows that an Executive Order does not trump federal law. And, he knows that an Executive Order is only valid while the signing president is in office. Unfortunately, Stupak counts on the ignorance of most Americans and he will be proved right. He milked the process for all it's worth, though. We have to give him that credit. He had interview after interview on national television, proclaiming righteous indignation over the potential for federal funding for abortion in the Senate version of the bill. He was heralded by pro-life Democrats and Republicans alike as a stand up kind of guy.
Yeah, right. It served his purpose to bask in the additional publicity that this legislative sausage making provided for him. He is up for re-election, you know. The bluffing game was strong all weekend from the House leadership. Speaker Pelosi and others proclaimed they didn't really need that pro-life delegation, that the votes were there without them. Turns out that was just another fib. The bill passed with only 3 votes to spare. It takes a vote total of 216 for a majority of the House votes. The vote was nearly perfectly split between yeas and nays. And, it was solely on a party line vote.
What does this tell us? It tells me that our country's economy and health care delivery system will change forever with the stroke of a pen as the president signs this into law. It tells me that for the first time in our nation's history a major new entitlement has now been put into law with only one party's vote. It tells me that this huge piece of social legislation is the last one that will be put into place in my lifetime, perhaps in my child's lifetime. The process has been so bastardized, the political parties have been so fractured and prostituted, the trust of public officials has been so completely depleted that I think this is all she wrote. This is it for the worn out term, 'change'.
As a political scientist, credit must be given to the majority party. Democratic leadership whipped the vote within an inch of its life. Deals were dealt, promises were promised, and the midnight oil burned. Whole states were exempted from certain provisions, some states received extra money for Medicaid, some states were given extra money for choice hospitals. And, President Obama promised to come and campaign for anyone brave enough to want that. The process was so bastardized it would be wrong to not stand back and be impressed by the sheer arrogance and bold pursuit of this legislation. Overwhelmingly the polls show the American people do not want this bill yet that didn't seem to matter. Full steam ahead.
The Democrats, from President Obama to Speaker Pelosi to committee chair to back bencher counted on the voter not being interested in the process. They were prepared for the end to justify the means. They maintained a steady stream of talking points and encouraged help from the unions and other special interest groups while bashing the other special interests of insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, drug manufacturers, and so on. Anyone not falling into line with the White House was deemed the enemy. This team from the Chicago political machine knows hardball politics.
President Obama gave an interview on a cable news show and flat out stated that the process didn't matter. The president, a man touted as a constitutional scholar and professor, said the process of law making didn't matter. Stop and think about that for one a minute. Now you understand why we are where we are.
And now the true test of survival begins. Will the Republicans run for re-election on the promise of pursuing repeal of this mess? Yes. Will Republicans repeal the legislation? No. History teaches us that these huge entitlements are never repealed, they never expire. Sometimes they may be reformed further down the line, like welfare was during the Clinton years with the first Republican majority led Congress in over 40 years, but the stars are rarely aligned for that occurrence. If Republicans take back either the House or the Senate in November, it will be because of renewed support from Independents. Independent support of this president - the ones who voted for him and put him into office - has fallen away. Independents no longer approve of his leadership or his programs. America is still a center-right nation and Team Obama misread a far left liberal mandate with his election in 2008. The way Obama won the election was to campaign as a common sense centrist.
Will the GOP be smart enough to stay united and be victorious in November? Will the party provide a big enough tent to embrace everyone with a desire of fiscal conservatism and personal responsibility? Will the GOP understand that the tent is big enough for everyone of shared values and political principles. Any intention of establishing purity tests of candidates or demand of cookie cutter adherence to a self proclaimed moral leader will banish the Republican party to minority status forever.
For those who say their way is the only way? They are short sited and ignorant of politics. The first thing a political science student learns is that the goal of politics is winning. If the candidate does not win the election, the party agenda is not advanced.
Elections have consequences.