In an amazing reversal that happened just moments ago, Congressional Democrats now appear to be reversing their plan to use the “Slaughter Solution” to “deem” the Senate bill “passed” without an up or down vote. Republicans had been pressuring congressional Democratic leaders for the past few weeks to do exactly that, and the Washington Post now confirms “deem and pass” is dead:
House leaders have decided to take a separate vote on the Senate health-care bill, rejecting an earlier, much-criticized strategy that would have permitted them to “deem” the unpopular measure passed without an explicit vote.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Saturday that the House would take three votes Sunday: first, on a resolution that will set the terms of debate; second, on a package of amendments to the Senate bill that have been demanded by House members; and third, on the Senate bill itself.
The abandonment of the “Slaughter Solution” by Democrats, under pressure from GOP leaders, is a welcome development in the health care reform debate which likely heads off a potential constitutional crisis if such a strategy was used. Now, all eyes will focus on the up or down vote on the Senate bill itself tomorrow.
Obama’s speech recycles most of the misleading talking points used by Obama and the Democrats over the past year despite the debunking of such claims by objective fact-checking organizations and simple reality, as will be outlined below. Obama began by accurately stating that the Obamacare debate is really “a debate about the character of our country.” Obama then goes off the rails somewhat with this rhetoric, stating that the question of passing Obamacare is about
“Whether we can still meet the challenges of our time. Whether we still have the guts and courage to give every citizen, not just some, the chance to meet their dreams.”
In fact, Obamacare is about whether the United States will move towards a new, radically altered system of strict federal government control and oversight of the health care industry or whether the United States will continue on its present path of substantially private-run health care. The drive of Americans to meet the challenges of “our time” is of course not epitomized by a massive increase in government spending and control over the health decisions of Americans, regardless of Obama’s expertly-crafted rhetoric above. Indeed, Obamacare will fundamentally alter the character of the United States, making most American citizens reliant upon a giant federal government bureaucracy, instead of themselves, for the provision of life-saving health care, forever altering the balance between citizen and government in this country.
As the American health care system is now the envy of the world, both in terms of innovation of new cutting-edge techniques and quality, and most world leaders come here for major health care for themselves personally, taking a giant step away from our present system via the massive new federal intervention into the health care industry in Obamacare can accurately be seen as risking America’s present dominance in the health care field internationally. Of course, Obama’s speech references none of these issues nor the 80% of Americans that presently approve of their personal health care arrangements.
Obama then moves onto a familiar rhetorical trick of framing all opponents to Obamacare as insurance industry hacks, stating that we cannot “accept a system that works better for the insurance companies than the American people” while “their lobbyists are stalking the halls of congress as we speak” and that “if this vote fails, the insurance industry will continue to run amok.” These arguments are substantially false as the health insurance companies will actually benefit in part from his bill as all healthy, young Americans who presently do not waste their money on pricey, unnecessary health insurance policies will now be forced to purchase same or face an IRS penalty and enforcement of same by IRS collection efforts. Of course, Obama’s speech does not reference this penalty on individuals, nor the additionally penalty on employers who do not provide benefits, in his speech today.
So the only question left is this: are we going to let the special interest win once again? Or are we going to make this vote a victory for the American People!
This claim, of course, ignores the fact that, at best, only about 35-40% of Americans support the passage of the President’s comprehensive health care plan into law, making its coming passage hardly a “victory” for the American people, 80% of which are presently satisfied with their medical care. Also ignored by this Obama claim that his bill is being opposed by “special interests” is the fact that Obama himself has made backroom deals with the large drug companies (“Big Pharma”), American Medical Association, the hospitals, the AARP, the unions, and even some insurance companies as the past year of backroom dealmaking between the Obama Administration and special interest groups has unfolded. The level of “audacity” required to claim his bill is not backed by special interests while he himself made deals with essentially every major special interest in the health care industry during meetings in his White House is substantial and this Obama claim is quite jarring when compared to the above-referenced publicly available facts.
Obama then continues in his speech to claim, as he has many times since the summer of 2009, that “the time for reform is right now. Not a year from now, not 5 years from now not 10 years from now not 20 years from now” while noting that “we have had a year of hard debate, every proposal has been put on the table, every argument has been made, we have incorporated the best ideas from Democrats and from Republicans into a final proposal that builds on the system of private insurance that we have.” These claims, of course, ignore the fact that the Republican ideas to reduce health care costs via tort reform and allowing increased competition between insurers across state lines are ignored by his legislation and those issues also go unmentioned in Obama’s speech today.
Obama then denies that his plan is “radical change” (somewhat contradicting his earlier comments extolling the major changes to come from his bill) and states that “what we’re talking about is common sense reform, that’s all we’re talking about.” Now, Obama unleashes three of the greatest lies ever told about Obamacare:
If you like your doctor, you’ll be able to keep your doctor. If you like your plan, you’ll be able to keep your plan. Because I don’t believe we should give the government or the insurance companies more control over health care in America. I believe it’s time to give you – the American people – more control over your health insurance.
Of course, the massive federal intervention into the American health care system will lead to many Americans having their present health care arrangements substantially altered, whether by a doctor who retires rather than face the increased costs of federal control, or by the new strict federal rules that require certain benefits to be covered, or by an employer who dumps their benefits coverage and just pays the fine to avoid the hassle, or by the elimination of nearly 10 million seniors “Medicare Advantage” coverage. amongst other ways such personal health care arrangements will be altered.
As for Obama’s claim that he does not want to “give the government or the insurance companies more control over health care” and instead wanting to give the “American people” “more control” over their health insurance, such a statement simply defies all logic and available facts known about Obamacare as many new federal rules and regulations will be implemented and enforced on the American health care system, hence increasing federal government control of same, as intended by its authors. Of course, Obama’s speech avoids any discussion of the massive increase in the federal government’s bureaucracy in his remarks today and instead Obama implausibly denies that his bill will increase federal power over the health care industry, as it is written and intended to do. Also unmentioned in Obama’s speech is the 15,000 new IRS employees to be hired to enforce the new Obamacare personal and company fines and taxes in Obamacare as well as cost of new federal health bureaucrats to “administer” Obamacare.
Obama then summarizes the parts of his nearly 3000 page bill that he wants to talk about, stating his Obamacare plan does three things: first, it “ends the worst practices of insurance companies” as implementing “a patients’ bill of rights on steroids”; second, “[f]or the first time, small business owners and others…will have the same kind of choice for private health insurance that members of congress give to themselves”; and third that it “brings down the cost of health care for families, businesses and the federal government.”
While the President does accurately state that insurers will be required to issue insurance policies to all those who have preexisting conditions that cost hundreds of thousands if not millions to treat every year at a cost that is not above a healthy person’s policy, the remaining two claims in his formulation are unequivocally false. All Americans will certainly not have coverage like members of Congress after Obamacare passes, this is simply a lie. Elite politicians will continue to receive gold-plated health care plans whether Obamacare passes or not, and the average American will either be fined for not purchasing such expensive coverage or the federal government will their own tax dollars (or borrowed dollars) pay to provide coverage made more expensive by Obamacare’s provisions.
Despite this reality, Obama makes this ridiculous claim during his discussion of his second main point that Americans will receive the same coverage as Congress:
“We will offer you tax credits to do so – tax credits that add up to the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history.”
Amazingly, Obama terms his planned new spending, in his own words, of at least a “100 billion a year” on a new federal health care entitlement program via Obamacare, as the “largest middle class tax cut for health care in history.” Such an explicitly misleading presentation of the new entitlement programs in Obamacare certainly recalls the works of George Orwell, such as the book 1984, and this Orwell quote in the aftermath of World War 2 in 1945:
People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome. . . To appreciate the danger of Fascism the Left would have had to admit its own shortcomings, which was too painful; so the whole phenomenon was ignored or misinterpreted, with disastrous results…The most intelligent people seem capable of holding schizophrenic beliefs, or disregarding plain facts, of evading serious questions with debating-society repartees, or swallowing baseless rumours and of looking on indifferently while history is falsified.
Above and beyond the false and misleading claims above, President Obama’s ridiculous claim today that Obamacare is “one of the biggest deficit-reduction plans in history” is definitely the most odious and explicitly false statement made by President Obama in his speech today, which in our view ranks as one of the most misleading Presidential speeches in American history. Of course, the giant new entitlement spending in Obamacare (at least 100 billion a year according to Obama today) will not reduce the yearly federal budget deficit, and Obama knows it. However, Obama and the Democrats keep repeating this claim, even claiming it is “one of the biggest deficit-reduction plans in history” based on entirely misleading numbers from the CBO.
It is true that the CBO issued a preliminary report on the latest nearly 3000 page long Obamacare plan today in which the CBO states the bill will cost about a trillion dollars over 10 years (only 6 years of benefits, but 10 years of taxes and Medicare cuts) while allegedly “saving” over a hundred billion in deficit spending over those first 10 years and over a trillion in deficit spending over 20 years. However, the CBO is forced to score the language and assumptions provided to it by the Democrats in charge of Congress, and cannot interject the CBO’s own opinion as to whether those assumptions will bear out or whether subsequent Congresses will change the language.
The first major misrepresentation in the CBO’s claim of deficit savings is the failure to include the “doctor fix” in the CBO’s scoring of OBamacare. The CBO’s claim of deficit spending assumes a 21% cut in doctor and hospital fees, as present law requires. That law, a 1997 act to reduce Medicare spending over time, has been waived every year since then by Congress under pressure from the AMA lobby and others. The Obama Administration, of course, made a little-publicized deal between Obama and the AMA in July 2009 to purchase their support for Obamacare by promising a long term “doctor fix” as a part of the comprehensive health care reform procedure, as reported by Politico then:
In the bill, Democrats provide $245 billion to eliminate an annual shortfall in payments to doctors under Medicare. Democrats resolved this annual headache, in large part, to win crucial support for the bill from the American Medical Association. That money currently counts against the overall costs of the bill, but Democrats have introduced legislation that would remove remove this obligation from federal deficit.
Whether you take the $245 billion dollar figure over 10 years quoted here by Politico, or the $371 billion dollar figure reported by Politico today (before they pulled the story under White House pressure) for the cost in federal spending of a long term doctor fix, the claimed $138 billion in deficit “savings” over the next 10 years completely disappears and Obamacare ends up being in the red, even putting aside all the other budgetary tricks we will outline below. Indeed, the CBO just issued an update to their report, in response to GOP Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) letter, admitting that Obamacare will add to the deficit once the doctor fix is in place, as promised by both President Obama to the AMA to buy their support and by Nancy Pelosi today in her news conference:
You asked about the total budgetary impact of enacting the reconciliation proposal (the amendment to H.R. 4872), the Senate-passed health bill (H.R. 3590), and the Medicare Physicians Payment Reform Act of 2009 (H.R. 3961). CBO estimates that enacting all three pieces of legislation would add $59 billion to budget deficits over the 2010–2019 period.
Of course, Obama was well aware of these facts regarding the lack of deficit savings when the doctor fix is factored into Obamacare, and Obama still explicitly stated today that his plan will be “one of the biggest deficit-reduction plans in history.” This Obama claim, a willful misrepresentation of the true cost of his program by not “counting” the doctor fix that Obama himself promised to the AMA to purchase their support for his program in July 2009, brings to mind the Orwell quote above that “most intelligent people seem capable of holding schizophrenic beliefs, or disregarding plain facts, of evading serious questions with debating-society repartees, or swallowing baseless rumours and of looking on indifferently while history is falsified. Sadly, the explicit misrepresentation of the President in claiming that Obamacare is “one of the biggest deficit-reduction plans in history” is not solely based on the doctor fix lie, but many others as well.
They’ve stuffed the legislation with gimmicks and dodges designed to get a good score from the Congressional Budget Office but don’t genuinely control runaway spending.
There is the doc fix dodge. The legislation pretends that Congress is about to cut Medicare reimbursements by 21 percent. Everyone knows that will never happen, so over the next decade actual spending will be $300 billion higher than paper projections.
There is the long-term care dodge. The bill creates a $72 billion trust fund to pay for a new long-term care program. The sponsors count that money as cost-saving, even though it will eventually be paid back out when the program comes on line.
There is the subsidy dodge. Workers making $60,000 and in the health exchanges would receive $4,500 more in subsidies in 2016 than workers making $60,000 and not in the exchanges. There is no way future Congresses will allow that disparity to persist. Soon, everybody will get the subsidy.
There is the excise tax dodge. The primary cost-control mechanism and long-term revenue source for the program is the tax on high-cost plans. But Democrats aren’t willing to levy this tax for eight years. The fiscal sustainability of the whole bill rests on the naïve hope that a future Congress will have the guts to accept a trillion-dollar tax when the current Congress wouldn’t accept an increase of a few billion.
There is the 10-6 dodge. One of the reasons the bill appears deficit-neutral in the first decade is that it begins collecting revenue right away but doesn’t have to pay for most benefits until 2014. That’s 10 years of revenues to pay for 6 years of benefits, something unlikely to happen again unless the country agrees to go without health care for four years every decade.
There is the Social Security dodge. The bill uses $52 billion in higher Social Security taxes to pay for health care expansion. But if Social Security taxes pay for health care, what pays for Social Security?
There is the pilot program dodge. Admirably, the bill includes pilot programs designed to help find ways to control costs. But it’s not clear that the bill includes mechanisms to actually implement the results. This is exactly what happened to undermine previous pilot program efforts.
In its March 11, 2010, cost estimate for H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), as passed by the Senate, CBO indicated that it has identified at least $50 billion in specified and estimated authorizations of discretionary spending that might be involved in implementing that legislation. The authority to undertake such spending is not provided in H.R. 3590; it would require future action in appropriation bills.
Finally, the President also plays misleading rhetorical games regarding the “cost controls” in Obamacare. The only significant cost control mechanism in the Obamacare package (as tort reform and interstate competition between insurers are omitted) is the “cadillac tax” on gold-plated health insurance policies, however, that tax was pushed off until 2018 because of pressure from unions who’s members have such insurance plans. Accordingly, in order to make the ridiculous claims of deficit savings referenced above, Obama pretends that Congress in 2017 will not waive the “cadillac tax” under political pressure, as he has just done with the delay until 2018 and as every Congress has done every year since the 1997 Medicare cost-cutting legislation (which is the source of the “doctor fix” problem in the first place). Indeed, if Obama with a huge Congressional majority cannot enact a cadillac tax within the next 8 years, why should anyone have any confidence that Congress 2017 will do so? Obama, and everyone else in Washington, knows this is an unrealistic fantasy, but Obama still made these ridiculous claims in his historically misleading speech today.
Finally, just as Congress has waived the planned reductions in fees for doctors and hospitals every year since 1997, future Congresses in all likelihood will also waive the planned nearly $500 billion in cuts to Medicare over the next 10 years to avoid a backlash by elderly voters who fear benefit cuts and pressure from medical provider lobbies. The cuts to Medicare are over half of the revenue Obama plans to use to fund the new health care entitlement spending of $100 billion a year, and everyone in Washington knows these cuts will never happen in full. Obama’s speech, of course, makes no reference to the “doctor fix” or the Medicare cuts themselves which form half of the revenue for his programs, but Obama certainly does claim that his plan is “one of the biggest deficit-reduction plans in history”, and all of his fellow Democrats are repeating similar claims all over the dial as this article is written. Such intentionally misleading statements by American leaders again remind centrist and independent Americans of the words of George Orwell as referenced above, reinforced by Obama’s ridiculous claim his “reduced” health care costs from Obamacare will mean that employers “can afford to give you a raise.”
A final Obama quote from today sums up the fraudulent nature of his speech, as he claims “more than $1 trillion” in deficit savings, considering the facts noted above. This comment is the only reference to the $500 billion in cuts planned for the Medicare system, and of course Obama does not reference Medicare by name:
And by the way, if you’re curious, well, how exactly are we saving these costs? Well, part of it is, again, we’re not spending our health care money wisely. So, for example, you go to the hospital or you go to a doctor and you may take five tests, when it turns out if you just took one test, then you send an e-mail around with the test results, you wouldn’t be paying $500 per test. So we’re trying to save money across the system. (Applause.) And altogether, our cost-cutting measures would reduce most people’s premiums. And here’s the bonus: It brings down our deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next two decades.
The pure idiocy of Obama’s example of emailed tests as his primary cost-cutting mechanism to cut nearly $500 billion from Medicare speaks for itself. Obama gave his speech to an auditorium of students at George Mason University, as such young college students are Obama’s last remaining base of support with his approval slipping underwater, as more Americans disapproving than approving of his performance in all major polls released this week. One can only hope that America does not have to find out the hard way, via renewed economic instability emanating from runaway deficit spending as envisioned by the actual provisions of Obamacare, not to mention the loss of medical innovation and job creation from the health care industry and the historical alteration of the relationship between American citizens and the federal government, that the claims made in Obama’s speech today are wholly false and that his speech was likely one of the most misleading speeches ever given by a sitting American President.
The largest federal government intervention into the US economy since FDR, and the most substantial legislation on health care policy in American history is set to pass the House of Representatives on Sunday, as a test vote on the floor of the House passed with 222 votes (6 to spare) on Wednesday, meaning Obamacare is all but certain to also garner the 216 House votes it needs on Sunday to reach President Obama’s desk.
Right now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in front of the media crowing about her success in finding the votes and being able to pass the comprehensive health care measure which will avoid “job-lock” based on the fear of losing health care coverage. Pelosi also repeated her wholly false claim that Obamacare will create 700,000 jobs “almost immediately” and her companion fantasy claim that Obamacare will reduce deficit spending by “1.3 trillion” over two decadesl and over a hundred billion in the next decade.
Both of these wholly false and misleading claims rely on future Congresses not waiving certain onerous “revenue raising” measures such as the “cadillac tax” on health insurance policies, which will kick in by 2018 (delayed, by pressure from unions and others, to nearly a decade from now) and further not waiving a large portion of the “planned” $500 billion in cuts to Medicare over the next decade. Neither of these policies are likely to actually be implemented, meaning that there will be only deficit gains from this bill, which makes logical sense as Obamacare will funnel hundreds of billions per year in new entitlement spending to purchase health insurance for those who qualify for the new American entitlement program.
Indeed, the same political pressure that will almost certainly lead future Congresses to waive a substantial majority of the cuts to Medicare benefits while also substantially lessening the bite of the “cadillac tax” on health insurance premiums set to begin in 2018 under Obama’s present plan has led Congresses, in every year since the passage of the Medicare savings bill in 1997, to waive such reductions in payments to doctors and hospitals as called for in the 1997 legislation. This procedure is known as the “doctor fix”, and Obama promised he would include a 10 year “doctor fix” in Obamacare to buy the support of the American Medical Association back in the summer of 2009. Because the inclusion of the 10 year “doctor fix” payoff to the AMA in the initial version of Obamacare created a CBO scoring which showed over $150 billion in deficit spending over 10 years, Obama and the Democrats removed the language from the bill and now pretend that the $250 billion dollar cost of the “doctor fix” over the first decade of Obamacare simply doesn’t exist.
Here’s what Nancy Pelosi had to say today in response to just such a question about the “doctor fix” from a brave reporter:
“We’ve been including it in legislation for a long time…it is not about a doctor fix, it is about our seniors or anyone who relies upon Medicare to have access…you call it the doctor fix, its really about access to health are for Americans…its not in this [Obamacare] bill, but we’ll have it soon. We have made a commitment to do this.”
Pelosi than refused to answer the followup question from that same reporter regarding the fact that the “doctor fix” will completely eliminate the claimed $100 billion or so in “deficit savings” over the first decade of Obamacare. President Barack Obama also started speaking just as Pelosi was under questioning about the “doctor fix”, issuing a very partisan speech at George Mason University. As it becomes clear to the American people that Obamacare will become law via the “Slaughter Solution” and President Obama’s signature just days from now, it will be interesting to see the public’s reaction to passing such a giant federal intervention into a segment of the economy that is actually producing jobs right now as the economy struggles to stop continuing job losses overall.
UPDATE: Ed at Hotair and Politico note that the Democratic leadership is circulating a memo instructing congresspeople to lie to the media and public about the coming $371 billion dollar increase in federal health care spending to be done as an add-on to Obamacare in the spring and further to avoid any substantive discussion of the CBO score and to instead just repeat the extraordinarily misleading top-line numbers:
Democrats are planning to introduce legislation later this spring that would permanently repeal annual Medicare cuts to doctors, but are warning lawmakers not to talk about it for fear that it will complicate their push to pass comprehensive health reform. The plans undercut the party’s message that reform lowers the deficit, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO.
Democrats removed the so-called doc fix from the reform legislation last year because its $371-billion price tag would have made it impossible for Democrats to claim that their bill reduces the deficit. Republicans have argued for months that by stripping the doc fix from the bill, Democrats were playing a shell game.
“Most health staff are already aware that our health proposal does not contain a ‘doc fix.’ … The inclusion of a full SGR repeal would undermine reform’s budget neutrality. So again, do not allow yourself (or your boss) to get into a discussion of the details of CBO scores and textual narrative. Instead, focus only on the deficit reduction and number of Americans covered,” the memo, sent Thursday to Democratic staff, said.
“As most health staff knows, leadership and the White House are working with the AMA to rally physicians for a full SGR repeal later this spring. However, both health and communications staff should understand we do not want that policy discussion discussed at this time, lest (it) complicate the last critical push to pass health reform,” according to the memo.
The memo helps explains why the American Medical Association has supported reform even though their top legislative priority, the doc fix, was left out. The group is working behind the scenes with Democratic leadership and the White House to fix the cuts later this year.
Indeed, in a statement this afternoon, the AMA announced its support for the reconciliation bill — and hinted that the debate is not over with reform’s passage.
“This is not the last step, but the next step toward real health system reform. We will remain actively engaged with Congress and the administration to ensure that before Congress adjourns there are additional important changes to our health system,” AMA president James Rohack said. “Congress must act to preserve access to care for seniors and military families by permanently repealing the Medicare physician payment formula that will cut Medicare payments by 21 percent next month.”
The memo also repeatedly advises Democrats not to discuss the details of the CBO score.
Such explicit misrepresentations about the true cost of Obamacare and the reality that Obamacare will actually hike the deficit, not reduce it, from the Democrats on the eve of the historic vote on comprehensive health care reform paints a very troubling picture of the leaders of America’s federal government. The full, odious memo is here.
UPDATE #2: Democrats are now denying writing the memo, and Politico has backed down and pulled it from its site. Apparently bad news for Democrats is not news at Politico. It is hard to imagine that Politico would have pulled a story about President Bush’s social security reform efforts if the GOP complained, bringing into clear focus the unbridled allegiance of the establishment media to the Democratic Party.
At a time when the establishment media, led by the NYT, is ignoring the untoward Democratic procedure trickery regarding Obamacare (“Slaughter Solution”) and downplaying the substantive special interest pork Obama is using to purchase votes, the NYT truly sets the standard for Obama worship with the photo reproduced here, showing Obama as a messiah-like figure in front of large cross, with a halo around his head, clearly intended to draw comparisons to Christian savior Jesus Christ.
This is nothing new for the NYT, their Obamaphile journalists like Peter Baker and other establishment media, as the cheerleading of the Obama candidacy and then Presidency has been continuous and systemic since the inception of Obama’s campaign for President in 2007. As the clock counts down on perhaps the most important vote in Congress in decades, the House vote on Obamacare, we can expect to see even more frantic Obama worship by the establishment media in the attempt to convince the American public to support the unpopular bill. Centrist, independent and non-ideological Americans are left to wonder what establishment media coverage of the Obama Administration would look like if the narrative-setting giant NYT reported in an objective, as opposed to supportive, manner regarding the Obama Presidency.
A final note from this NYT article bears mentioning. Despite tons of rhetoric about how this week’s House Obamacare vote is so critical to Obama’s Presidency, the establishment media also sets a new narrative into action, claiming that if the House vote fails, Obama’s Presidency will be a-okay. Apparently the establishment media, as orchestrated by the Obama Administration, wants to have all its bases covered as this final week of the Obamacare battle begins.
Still, for all the potential consequences, it is probably too hyperbolic to suggest the presidency rides on this moment. If he fails this week, Mr. Obama could still recover. Even a weakened president has enormous capacity to set an agenda. For all the damage Mr. Clinton absorbed from the failure of his health care plan and the Republican takeover, he eventually found his footing again and won re-election handily.
BOB SCHIEFFER: A– as I understand it, and– and the parliamentarians seemed to have ruled that the House is going to have to pass the bill that the Senate passed.
ROBERT GIBBS: Right.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And then the President is going to have to sign that before the House votes on this so-called reconciliation package. It’s going to correct all those things they don’t like in
this Senate bill.
ROBERT GIBBS: Yes, sir.
Gibbs then continues after Schieffer pushed Gibbs on whether the Senate actually pass the “corrections” to the then-passed Obamacare:
ROBERT GIBBS: Yeah. Well, again, we’ve– we’ve worked with leaders in the Senate. We’ve talked to members of the Senate. The President has. And, look, members of the House, the President, and members of the Senate want to see some of those corrections made in– in that legislation. I– I think this is going to happen. Again, I think the House will have passed the Senate bill a week from today. We’ll be working now next on getting those corrections passed by both the House and the Senate. And we’ll have health care reform in this country.
In a perfect case study of how dramatic Washington can get on a Friday afternoon, attention on health care appears to have shifted from when the final vote will be (next week?) to the possibility of a new parliamentary procedure to greenlight the bill. At issue is what’s being dubbed the “Slaughter solution,” which, in a roundabout way, would let the House pass the Senate bill without actually voting on it.
Here’s how: Rep. Louise Slaughter is chair of the House Rules committee, and as such, figured out that the House could momentarily change its rules to say that the House doesn’t need to pass the Senate bill since both bills are pretty similar anyway (in that they’re about the same subject). That way, Democratic members reticent about voting for the Senate bill technically wouldn’t have to be on record voting for it. They would just have to vote not to stop it from passing. It’s effectively a shift from active passage of the bill to passive. Then, after this rule passed, the Senate bill would go straight to the president, he would sign it, and then both chambers would start working on a few fixes through reconciliation.
The Obamaphile journalist David Stone concludes it is ludicrous to think the Democrats would actually do this, despite Democratic House Rules Chairwoman Slaughter’s explicit plans to do so, as reported by the non-partisan Congress Daily:
House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter is prepping to help usher the healthcare overhaul through the House and potentially avoid a direct vote on the Senate overhaul bill, the chairwoman said Tuesday.
Slaughter is weighing preparing a rule that would consider the Senate bill passed once the House approves a corrections bill that would make changes to the Senate version.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Will Democrats get health care passed?
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: I’m going to say what I’ve said all along in my humble approach to this subject. I, having worked on this kind of legislation on the Senate floor, trying to get it passed, and in committee. I do not see how they can do this. Now, and part of that is because it’s never been done before. And they have moved into a legislative territory that has never previously existed. The Republicans have not been very smart about trying to describe this. It’s difficult to describe. But this is unprecedented, using reconciliation this way. Because what they’ve done, is that they’ve abandoned a bill in mid-conference. The Senate passed a bill, the House passed a bill. They were in mid-conference negotiating this bill, in conference, and they said it’s going to be impossible for us to pass it now because of Scott Brown, so we’re going to abandon conferencing this bill and move over to another legislative vehicle, called reconciliation. To handle something you’ve already been legislating another way, now, that’s never occurred before.
SCARBOROUGH: That’s never happened?
O’DONNELL: Never, never, never.
Such emphatic condemnation of the Democratic endgame strategy to pursue the “amend the ghost” trickery in the House and reconciliation in the Senate to pass Obamacare from an explicitly left wing ideologue like O’Donnell is a bright red flag for centrists and independents. Perhaps Newsweek’s David Stone is correct in saying that it is “hard to imagine a scenario in which such a process would actually fly.” Left-leaning The Hill concurs that the “Slaughter Solution” is a “sneaky, slimy sleight-of-hand” and that no one will be “fooled by this.”
The Van Hollen memo also advised members to avoid talking about the process.
“At this point, we have to just rip the band-aid off and have a vote — up or down; yes or no? Things like reconciliation and what the rules committee does is INSIDE BASEBALL,” the memo says. “People who try and start arguments about process on this are almost always against the actual policy substance too, often times for purely political reasons.”
Leadership expects a CBO score on the reconciliation package by today or Monday. No decisions have been made on how the final process will unfold on the House floor, the memo says. So it appears Democrats are still grappling with whether they can use the process to pass the Senate bill without voting directly on the bill. Many Democrats view the Senate bill’s deals and policies as a toxic political mix that they would rather not endorse without first making changes to it.
ROBERT GIBBS: –I– I do think this is the– I do think this is the climactic week for health care reform. And like I said I– I think whoever you interview just this time next week, you won’t be talking about a proposal in the House. You’ll be talking about the House having passed that proposal and us being a signature away from health care reform in this country.
As this is the “climatic week for health care reform” it is truly unfortunate that procedural trickery such as the “Slaughter Solution” and reconciliation are being pursued by the Democrats on such an important piece of legislation, even in the face of criticism by left-leaning journalist allies like Newsweek, MSNBC and The Hill. Unfortunately, the NYT and Washington Post have not touched the “Slaughter Solution” controversy to date, and the major networks are ignoring it as well, so outright misrepresentations like Gibbs’s claims on Face the Nation today will probably continue to slide under the radar until the deed is done as planned by the Obama Administration and the Congressional Democratic leadership.