Political Cowardice

It looks like the House of Representatives may try to pass healthcare reform (with tax-payer funded abortions) without actually voting on it (read about it here). It would involve a parliamentary procedure that stinks to high heaven. Albert Mohler calls it “unbelievable political cowardice,” and I couldn’t agree more.

28 Responses to Political Cowardice

  1. El Bryan Libre March 16, 2010 at 7:54 pm #

    I don’t think it’s cowardice, I think it’s smart. The House Democrats don’t want to be attacked during elections for having voted for things in the Senate bill that they didn’t support (such as the Nebraska, Louisiana, and Florida deals) which would likely get stripped out during reconciliation since they’re opposed to them and didn’t want them in there in the first place. The Republicans insisted that they were going to be attacking them for being for those deals before they were against them even though they are saying they are against them. So if they instead vote for the changes without having to vote for the actual bill then they won’t be able to be attacked.
    Again it seems like a smart response. In the end it’s all politics and I don’t really think any of it has to do with courage or cowardice.

  2. Kelly March 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

    One may or may not like what they are doing, but, it’s politics. It is a legal way of doing it. unusual, but legal, and it will lead to less political fallout from people who support the status quo (there was a story in the news today about Fortis dropping anyone who is found to be HIV + on any flimsy excuse possible. Talk about a REAL WORLD death panel!) so, just because your opponants may have found a way to get something done that will make it harder to attack them is no reason to get offended. Both sides of the debate are playing to win.

    It’s not cowardice. It’s just smart politics. It’s not like more than a handful of people who are upset about this would have supported any of the bill ANYWAY.

  3. Nate March 18, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    Have either of you two actually read the US Constitution? You cannot pass into law a bill that has not been voted on and passed by both the House and the Senate.

  4. David Vinzant March 18, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    Actually, Nate, this procedure has been judged constitutional by federal courts. The vote for the “deem and pass” measure is considered a vote on the bill itself. A little research turns up the fact that the procedure was first used in 1933 and has been used since the 1970s over 200 times in the House by both Republicans and Democrats.

    I wonder if Denny and Al think it was “unbelievable political cowardice” when Newt Gingrich used this procedure 90 times or when Dennis Hastert used it 112 times.

  5. Nate March 18, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    I would say yes. Newt Gringich is not the “savior.” Republicans are just as politically immoral as Democrats. However, if the Dems were too stupid to take it to the Supreme Court, then too bad for them. The US Constitution clearly states that a bill must be passed by a vote by both the house and the Senate. This has not happened. Furthermore, a Federal Court does not have the last say in our country. Do you know if the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge on this?

  6. Nate March 18, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    Article 1 – Section 7 of the US Constitution

    Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States…

    But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively.

    Seems pretty black-and-white to me.

    Show me their signatures.

  7. David Vinzant March 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    Actually, the Democrats did challenge the constitutionality of this and the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that it was constitutional. I believe it was appealed, but the Supreme Court declined to consider it. You can look up the case: Public Citizen v. Clerk, United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

    Once it was declared constitutional and the Democrats regained a majority, they began continued using the rule just as often as Republicans had.

    As I said, the current understanding is that a vote for “deem and pass” is considered a legal vote for the bill itself. As Kelly and Bryan stated, it is a way for Congressmen to approve a bill while also adding their own provisos. This gives them some political cover so that they can pass the Senate bill, and still tell constituents that they are on record as trying to amend some aspects of the Senate bill.

  8. David Vinzant March 18, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    Incidentally, if it truly is unconstitutional, opponents of the bill should be overjoyed if Democrats use this rule. Then all Republicans will have to do is have the Supreme Court overturn it.

  9. El Bryan Libre March 18, 2010 at 7:58 pm #

    Nate:
    I’m not a constitutional scholar so all I can go on is what has been done before. Since this wouldn’t be the first time it has been used then I guess it is a legit procedure.

    I would prefer that they just vote for the Senate bill and I don’t really think it will come back to bite them as much as they think and I think it’s easy to explain away. All they have to say is we voted to pass an imperfect bill that had things in it we didn’t like and then right away turned around and voted to take some of those things we didn’t like out.

  10. Nate March 19, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    David, the case you mentioned is not the same thing. In that case a clerk error was the cause of the supposed difference in the bill. From the District Court File: “…when the Senate clerk transmitted the engrossed S. 1932 to the House, he mistakenly changed § 5101 of the bill to reflect a 36-month duration of payments for durable medical equipment rather than the 13-month duration actually approved by the Senate.”

    That is far different than the issue at hand. There is no clerk errors here. This is a case of waving a magic wand and saying the House passed the Senate bill and then vote on changes to that bill. The two are not even close to similar.

    El Bryan: Just because the Constitution has been bypassed before does not mean it is legit. Just because you didn’t get caught shoplifting doesn’t make it legit. It is still a crime.

  11. David Vinzant March 19, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    Yes, Nate, that was the originating complaint, but the court’s opinion dealt with the broader question of how to determine whether the House or Senate has actually passed a particular bill. Federal judicial opinions often go far beyond the specific case to encompass a broader principle.

    Did you read the entire opinion? If so, you would have come across this:

    “In short, Marshall Field establishes a rule that when a violation of the bicameral
    requirement is alleged, the signatures of the presiding officers of each chamber of Congress and the President on the enrolled bill is a “complete and unimpeachable” authentication that the bicameral requirement has been satisfied, unrebuttable by evidence gleaned from the
    Congressional Record, prior versions of bills, or any other documents printed by authority of Congress. That rule remains in effect today. Here, plaintiff concedes that the Speaker of the
    House and President pro tempore of the Senate signed S. 1932 as enrolled and that this bill was
    then signed by the President of the United States.”

    The fact that this case established the legality of the “deem and pass” rule is really not in question, even by Congressional Republicans. As I said, if it is unconstitutional, you should be thrilled because it can be overruled by the S.C.

  12. El Bryan Libre March 19, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    Nate:
    Like I said, I’m not a constitutional scholar so I can’t really comment whether it is unconstitutional or not. However since it appears that both sides have been using it for a while now then they don’t seem to think it’s unconstitutional. If they don’t think it’s unconstitutional then why should I? David seemed to make an interesting point about that Public Citizen v Clerk case and the precedent it established.

    It’s interesting the parrallels that you can see between the problems with interpreting the constitution and interpreting the Bible.

  13. Nate March 20, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    “If they don’t think it’s unconstitutional then why should I?”

    Because that is exactly how your freedom is stolen from you.

  14. El Bryan Libre March 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    What? Are you for real? You think my freedom has been stolen because I don’t have any reason to disagree with the two parties in the House over the constitutionality of a particular procedure that’s been used many times before?

    Btw, do you agree with David on that one ruling that y’all were discussing?

  15. Nate March 20, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    El Bryan, I am giving you a hard time, to some degree. However, when we allow our politicians to interpret the US Constitution any way they want we start ceding our rights to elected officials. And, for that matter, the Supreme Court is not the final arbiter on rulings either. The founders allow for the states to override a ruling from by the Supreme Court in the same way the Supreme Court can overrule the Congress.

    The founders were very interesting in not allowing politicians and courts to have ultimate rule.

    Roe v. Wade is a perfect example. If you truly believe that the Supreme Court did not override the Constitution and find privacy where it doesn’t exist, then nobody would be trying to get it overridden; we would simply have to live with it. Or for that matter the Dred Scott case would have never been overturned.

    As for the ruling that David is discussing, that particular ruling was established due to a clerical error and doesn’t pertain to this bill in whole. So, yes it will go back to the Supreme Court. I believe the governor of Virginia has already stated that his state will bring the suit against the Congress should they attempt to pass the Senate Bill without a vote by the House.

  16. Nate March 20, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    By the way, news is now reporting that the Democrats have said they will not attempt to use the “deem and pass” on this bill.

    They either think they have the votes or they were worried it would be overturned in the Supreme Court.

  17. El Bryan Libre March 20, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    Nate you bring up an interesting issue about the constitution.

    It’s interesting that you talk about elected officials and the Supreme Court not being the final arbiters on what the Constitution says and how it should be interpreted. You then say founders allow the States to over ride a Supreme Court ruling if they disagree. Since I’m not that knowledgeable about the constitution, where do the founders allow that? Is it in the constitution or outside of the constitution (is it in a separate document)?

    Does this then mean that each individual state can decide for itself whether it agrees with the Supreme court? By what basis do they disagree on? Who is the final arbiter? States? The people? I have a hard time seeing how this helps anything. It seems better to try to work within the system through the Supreme court and Congress instead of states deciding they don’t like something so they’re not going to go along with it.

    David’s point about that ruling seems to be that it upheld a situation where deem and pass was used even though there was a clerical error in the process. They didn’t turn around overturn it because of the clerical error or because deem and pass was unconstitutional. That seems to say a lot. That would be like a cop giving you a ticket in a questionable manner (questionable in its legality) and you challenging the ticket on a clerical error and then the court upholding the ticket despite the clerical error and making you pay it. Not only were they saying that the clerical error stands but the manner in which is was given was legit and didn’t break any laws. At least that’s what David seems to be getting at.

    Either way as you noted they probably won’t even use the method so it won’t really matter in the end. Still it was kind of interesting.

  18. Nate March 20, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    States via the Congress can override the Supreme Court by a 3/4 majority vote. This is in the US Constitution and it is how amendments are made to the Constitution. Congress can propose an amendment which must be passed by a 2/3 vote and then sent to the states and voted on by their respective governments and 3/4 of the states must ratify the amendment.

    But to answer your question concerning what individual states can do on their own. This bill also will bring an interesting constitution challenge on that. The bill, if passed, will require all citizens to purchase health insurance. According to the 10th amendment of the US Constitution, the federal government does not have the ability to overstep its authority.

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    So then, does the US Constitution give the federal government the power to force all people to purchase health insurance. Many states have already begun to pass legislation stating their citizens DO NOT have to purchase health insurance. This element of the bill, if passed, will surely go to the Supreme Court.

    Idaho has already passed this and 37 other states have it on the docket. All these states will take that portion of the bill to the Supreme Court should it pass.

  19. El Bryan Libre March 20, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    I see. I was under the impression that the states could by themselves decide they didn’t want to go along with a ruling from the Supreme Court. It’s interesting how the states are dependent on Congress as the Supreme court. I mean states have to wait for Congress to pass an amendment and then 75% of the states must agree to it. Then if individual states don’t agree with something Congress passes they have to appeal to the Supreme court to agree with them. There’s an interesting balance there.

    It seems like it’s easier to get the Supreme court to over rule Congress than it is for Congres to over rule the Supreme court, at least on something controversial.

    Regarding the individual mandate I don’t think it will matter that much if the Supreme court gets rid of it. Some democrats don’t even think you need it and Obama during the campaign didn’t seem to think you needed it.

  20. Nate March 20, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    No… Obama’s plan is built on everyone paying for health insurance. The bill calls for fines and penalties to employers who don’t offer or for individuals that don’t comply. If the well-to-do (whatever income level that is) doesn’t foot the bill, those with less income, who are given tax exemptions for purchasing insurance, will not gain their benefits. In other words, employers and the wealthy must buck up and pay for this bill.

    This is a further eroding of the middle class in this country. That is exactly what the “progressives” desire. Instead of everyone paying their share of taxes, this is take from the haves and give to the have nots.

    Independence, hard-work, “you can be anything you want,” is being removed from our country. We are morphing into European socialism. The government must supply all our needs. The government has all the answers.

    This is the largest entitlement since Johnson’s Great Society. Very sad day for our republic if this passes.

  21. Nate March 20, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    I have a response in limbo, but basically it said that our country is going to Europe in a hand-basket. Very sad day for the republic.

  22. El Bryan Libre March 20, 2010 at 8:29 pm #

    I know Obama now favor mandates but that’s a change from in the campaign. I know some like Howard Dean don’t think you need mandates.

    I don’t think this bill is that bad. It’s really not all that progressive either or else we’d have single payer or at least a public option. The progressives are not that happy about this health care bill and think it’s actually pretty weak.

    Do you think you will benefit at all from this bill passing or do you think it will likely hurt you?

  23. Nate March 20, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

    If the progressives were not happy, why are they cutting deals left and right to get it passed?

    Yes, it will hurt me and even worse, it will hurt my children. Their freedoms are being taken away. This bill is not addressing costs. It is about control. How is Social Security working out? How is the current government controlled health-care working out? Medicare is bankrupt. Medicaid is in shambles.

    Why should employers be forced to provide you and I with insurance? Do they provide us with car insurance? Why not allow insurance companies to compete over state lines instead of the regional approach? What about tort reform?

    This is all about pushing the envelope towards a single payer system. Go back and investigate Social Security and look at its evolution. It was supposed to be a temporary solution. It initially only collected off the first 3,000 dollars of income, now it collects off the first 100,000 (I believe).

    People also forget that the insurance industry is one of the largest employers in the country. This is going to cost jobs throughout the insurance industry.

  24. Nate March 20, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    Here are a few other things that are dangerous and anti-American with this bill.

    1. Your health-care money will be paying for abortions. As Denny stated in starting this post the Democrats are cowards and many babies will be murdered with our money footing the bill.

    2. Our medical records will become part of a national database which means that what used to be doctor/patient privacy will now be known by the government.

    3. The feds will be choosing your health package as they will determine what is the comprehensive plan that will be standard.

    So what do you think is good about this bill?

  25. El Bryan Libre March 20, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    By progressives I mean people like Dennis Kucinich or Howard Dean or even Michael Moore (sorry those are the only ones that came to my mind right now). If you watch MSNBC opinion shows like Olbermann or Maddow you’d notice that they view the Obama administration as too centrist and they think the Democrats tried to appease Republicans and conservative Democrats way too much with the bill. They see this bill as been kind of a let down yet still better than nothing and they believe it’s something they can build on.

    What freedoms of your children are being taken away?

    So you won’t benefit from anything in this bill?

    Do you think it would be better if there were no social security, medicare or medicaid?

  26. El Bryan Libre March 20, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    I like the doing away with denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, doing away with limits (annual or lifetime I can’t remember), not being able to drop you because you get sick, children staying on their parents plan til they’re 26, insurance exchanges, subsidies for those who can’t afford it which I think includes small business who have less than 30 employees, and the 30 million people who will be covered. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I imagine if I look through it I would see some other things I like.

  27. Nate March 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    What is being taken away from my children? Choosing what they want or what they don’t want. Why should my son or any other young male in his twenties be forced to buy insurance that he does not need, other than catastrophic care, unless he is married?

    Also denying coverage is a misnomer. So insurance companies must be compelled to insure the unisurable? Why isn’t the government changing life insurance policies? I sure wish I could get the rates I had when I was 20. Again, denying coverage was really about children with pre-existing conditions, not adults. It is also a misnomer that people without coverage in this country can’t get care. No hospital, by law, is allowed to turn anyone away. Medicaid already covers children without insurance. And the 30 million includes illegal aliens and other foreigners living in our country. So you are good with your tax dollars paying for that?

    Why again should your employer be forced to provide you with insurance? Why not a car and car insurance as well. The average family spends more per year on car related expenditures than health-care.

  28. El Bryan Libre March 20, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    I don’t really want to get into a debate about this bill Nate (which is where this seems like it might be heading). Then I would end up spending the rest of my free weekend researching all these issue that you’ve raised (as well as the ones I already raised) to come up with answers in response only to find out that in the end we both feel the same way we did before. Discussing disagreements over these types of things on blogs is fine and can even be profitable when you are only focusing on one or two issues but once it starts turning into a lot of issues, and rapidly jumping from one to the next, then it’s more work and time than it’s worth. I’m sure you understand. Suffice to say, I’ve heard enough in response to the issues that you raised to make me more favorable to the bill than not.

    Thanks for the discussion, especially the info on the constitution. It made me want to get back to reading Jaroslav Pelikan’s “Interpreting the Bible and the Constitution”. Take care.
    : )

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