Right to the Point (10/1/09)

Is reconciliation Obamacare's best hope?

Oct. 1, 2009

By Mike Benevento

Washington Democrats are in trouble.

Since President Barack Obama took office, they have been breathtakingly pushing their liberal agenda — and greatly increasing the nation’s debt. America voted for change. Democrats have decisively delivered.

Regarding health care reform, Obama provided high-level guidance and gave Congress an August deadline to completely overhaul the system. Due to a massive Republican pushback, squabbling among Democrats and the public’s decidedly negative reaction, the deadline came and went. It is blatantly obvious that nationalizing health care is one change the majority of Americans don’t want.

Citizens across the country have spontaneously risen up and protested the proposed health care changes. The public outcry has been so widespread that Democrats have witnessed their approval ratings drop faster than skydivers without parachutes.

Poll numbers show most Americans oppose overhauling health care. They realize the numbers don’t add up and that government will likely raise taxes on the middle class to pay for it. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported that, far from being revenue-neutral, as Obama claims, his health care plan will annually add $239 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

Additionally, many Americans are concerned with issues surrounding the public insurance option, subsidizing abortion, paying for illegal aliens and rationing of care.

Correctly sensing nationalizing health care was losing steam, Obama recently became more involved with selling it to the American people. Not content with Congress running the show, Obama has been actively promoting reform. He put his face on health care legislation, so much so that many Americans now call it “Obamacare.”

While their party leadership pushes for an all out health care overhaul, the Democratic rank and file is dragging its feet. Many are looking for a way out of this morass — especially before next year’s elections.

To be sure, the American people want health care improvements, but they prefer an incremental approach. Americans want well-reasoned evolutionary changes, not the revolutionary change Democrats are peddling.

Although the public has sent Democrats an unequivocal message not to socialize the health care system, columnist David Limbaugh points out that President Obama is not deterred.

At this point in the game, Democrats have expended too much political capital to retreat. They know that they must deliver some type of health care reform. Otherwise, their party’s ultraliberals will be screaming bloody murder and their constituents will question their potency. Without even the smallest health care reform, the Democratic Party knows it is doomed in the 2010 elections.

So, its leadership is pulling out all the stops to keep its controversial nationalized health care agenda on track. This is why a budgetary maneuver called “reconciliation” may be Obamacare’s only hope.

As crunch-time nears, there is a very strong possibility that Democrats will use reconciliation to jam their divisive health care plan through Congress. The measure would allow Democrats to overhaul health care without a single Republican vote.

Bloomberg’s Brian Faler explains, “Reconciliation reduces the number of votes needed to pass legislation in the 100-seat Senate to a simple majority rather than the 60 required to overcome resistance to major bills.”

“Reconciliation” allows Democrats to overhaul health care despite moderate Senate Democrats’ reservations and strong Republican opposition. The tactic allows senators to avoid filibusters and pass legislation with a simple majority.

Former Clinton advisor Dick Morris explains President Obama’s latest strategy as relying on his own party members to jam through health care legislation. Morris wrote, “With 60 Senators and a 76 vote margin in the House, he need not compromise or even listen to Republicans. He can invoke the so-called ‘nuclear option’ and pass his bill in the Senate with just 50 votes and no possibility of real debate, much less a filibuster.”

As spelled out by Jonathan Weisman and Naftali Bendavid in The Wall Street Journal, Democratic leaders are strongly considering breaking health care legislation into two parts.

Legislation with widespread Democrat and bipartisan Republican support would be lumped together into one bill. The bill would likely include most of the insurance regulations, such as requiring insurers accept anyone regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. Democratic leaders believe this portion of the health care overhaul would clear the 60-vote hurdle.

The most expensive and controversial provisions would be put together in another proposal. This bill is expected to be passed solely with Democrats’ votes using the reconciliation procedure. The contentious public option — the Democratic Party’s key requirement — would be included in this part.

Democrats hope that splitting health care reform into two bills and using reconciliation (effectively shutting out Republicans and moderate Democrats) will help Congress pass overarching health care legislation, which President Obama would sign into law before next year.

Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.