THE SAPIENT SPARROW: conservatism for commoners

"What has always made the State a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven."–Holderlin


Over the past three days I have been offline due to the huge Nor’easter that blew through New Jersey over last weekend.  However, I have been closely following, as I am sure all of you have been, the race toward a final vote on Obamacare.  The general consensus is that this vote will take place on Sunday, if the Bill is indeed posted on the internet today and 72 hours elapse before the vote is taken.

Now, I am not at all sure which Bill will be posted on the internet.  Will it be the Senate Bill, or the House Reconciliation Bill or both?  And, why should we care about the House Reconciliation Bill?  Why does anyone want to know how the CBO scores it?  What difference does its language make?  If passed, it is not the Bill that will become law; the Senate Bill will become law.  The Senate Bill is the only Bill that is guaranteed to become law.  The House Reconciliation Bill is simply a “wish list” from those House Democrats that have concerns about the Senate Bill.  As we are all aware, just because a “wish list” exists, never means that it will be fulfilled.  However, in listening to the Democrat “fence-sitters”, I have the distinct impression that they are waiting with bated breath for the “language” of the Reconciliation Bill before they decide how to vote on the Senate Bill.  This is absolute nonsense, but this is exactly what they are saying.

This morning, for example, it was reported that Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) stated that he “likes the CBO numbers”, (reportedly ~$940 billion over the next ten years).  Now, remember, these are the numbers for the House Reconciliation Bill, i.e., the one that is not going to become law after the House vote.  Rep. Smith went on to say that he understands the contents of the Senate Bill, but that he wants to make sure that he understands the items added by the Reconciliation Bill before he decides how to vote.  Got that?

Other Democrats have used this convoluted, and flawed, logic to explain their decision making process.  In his recent interview with Greta Van Susteren, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) seemed to exhibit split personality disorder as he tried to explain his reasoning about the upcoming vote.  For the sake of simplicity, it may be useful to think of these personalities as “Stupak-A” and “Stupak-B”.

REP. BART STUPAK, D – MICH: … We’re still not planning on voting for health care unless we can address some concerns. As I said before, there’s many concerns with this bill, especially with the House — with our vote, we sort of pass the Senate bill without any amendments. It goes to the president, he signs it, and then we have to do reconciliation. What if reconciliation does not get through? I mean, I’m sure we can pass it in the House, but what about the Senate?

Members of the House are very uncomfortable, in a way, voting on a piece of legislation and you don’t know — going to be corrected by the Senate. We have over 250-some pieces of legislation sitting in the Senate, waiting for them to pass it. Is this going to be another one?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, are…

STUPAK: That’s — that’s a concern. You’re asking us to vote for a very unpopular bill, and the correction, if you will, may never come.

Okay, so far so good.  Rep. Stupak (Stupak-A) seems to grasp the inherent defect of the House Reconciliation Bill.  He then morphs into Stupak-B.

STUPAK:  We expect a long week. But the few members that I’ve seen, their votes haven’t changed. No one has seen the reconciliation, the correction bill, if you will. No one has seen it. So it’s hard for members to pledge their vote on a piece of legislation we’ve never seen.  I have deep concerns with this bill, especially on the abortion language. And he [Hoyer] also knows that I don’t give up until we can get matters resolved. And hopefully, we can resolve these matters yet.

…representations are made to members that, you know, Look at this, you should really do this. And members are saying, Sure, we’re open-minded. We’ll look at it. We’re trying to work this out, whether it’s abortion language, whether it’s the doctors’ payment, whether it’s the sweetheart deals that are found in the Senate bill.

We haven’t seen any language to placate our concerns. There’s been a lot of discussions, but no language yet. So again, we’re open-minded. We’re willing to work with the administration, willing to work with House leadership, but we want to see the legislation. We want to make sure it takes care of concerns.

What “language” is he talking about?  The “language” of the House Reconciliation Bill.  That is what Stupak-B says will convince him, and his like-minded colleagues, to vote “yes” on the Senate Bill and make it law, i.e., that the “language” of the House Reconciliation Bill is acceptable.  But, immediately prior, Stupak-A had said that he did not trust the Senate to change the bill that the House passes to reflect the House Reconciliation Bill’s “fixes”.  Confused yet?  Wait, there’s more.  Stupak-A reappears and continues:

STUPAK: Remember, all the Senate needs to do is throw one monkeywrench or something different in that piece of legislation, the whole thing falls apart.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you think the Senate will — if you see the reconciliation package before you vote on the Senate bill, essentially, you would be fine if the language is right? You’d trust everyone?

STUPAK: No, I didn’t say that.


Okay?  Poor Greta, she seems bewildered at this point, but not as bewildered as she will be, because next Stupak-A and Stupak-B both speak simultaneously:

STUPAK: I just can’t vote for it. I mean, until you see the language, Greta, it’s really hard to say you’re going to do this or that.

Greta did not seem to fare better with Rep. Lipinski (D-IL).  It is notable that he, too, is afflicted with split personality disorder.  Consider the following excerpt of his interview during On The Record:

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Have you heard anything from the leadership, from Speaker Pelosi or Congressman Steny Hoyer in the last five or six days?

LIPINSKI: Yes. I just simply told them I cannot vote for the Senate abortion language.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who did you speak to?

LIPINSKI: I talked to Steny.

VAN SUSTEREN: What did he say?

LIPINSKI: We talked a little about it. He said well where do you see this does cover abortion? I plainly went through the bill and said I think it’s very obvious that funding is in there. I just cannot vote for that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did he give you any indication he would be willing to move off that language and change that language to satisfy you?

LIPINSKI: As of that time, no. There was no indication of that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Were you offered anything? OK we understand you don’t like that language, would this be OK, or would you like something else?

LIPINSKI: No. And I’m really letting Bart Stupak — we can only have one real person who is in charge in terms of working on any kind of language, because the last time we went through the same thing when the bill was in the House.

And it wasn’t until the last minute that they came to us and said OK, we can — we understand we need to change the abortion funding language. And they did it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it uncomfortable going again your party?

LIPINSKI: It is never comfortable being in a Democratic caucus and having such overwhelming support for the bill — obviously not enough to pass it, but yes, it’s uncomfortable. But it is something on this issue especially that I know this is where I’m at. And most of the caucus is not in the same place, but I know this is the right thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there anything at all short of changing the language that would make you change your mind? Anything offered to your district to anything else to you to change your mind that would give you any wiggle room so you can accept that language?

LIPINSKI: Absolutely not. If that language is not changed, I will vote no.

Crazy-making, isn’t it?  Will the real Rep. Lipinski please stand up?  However, my personal favorite is the exchange between Rep. Altmire (D-PA) and Sean Hannity:

ALTMIRE: I haven’t seen the final language, I don’t think I’m asking too much to read the final bill and see the CBO score and hear from my constituents before I make my decision.

Uh, Rep. Altmire, you have the final language of the Bill that will become law if you vote for it.

ALTMIRE: I’m going to give them a chance to rectify those [concerns] in the reconciliation package.

Hannity then listed items included in the Senate Bill, e.g., abortion funding, the Cornhusker Kickback, etc. and asked Altmire whether he supported a bill including these.  He made the following perplexing reply:

ALTMIRE: Not if we had voted in isolation. I’m going to give them a chance to make this right…before I make my decision.

Somehow, all of these Congressmen have conflated the Senate Healthcare Bill with the House Reconciliation Bill.  Either they are ignorant about how a bill becomes a law, or they are simply lying about their indecisiveness.  There is a Schoolhouse Rock episode that would fix the former.  Nothing at all fixes the latter.

Filed under: healthcare, LEGISLATION, , , , , , , ,

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