A little after 11 pm on the East Coast, Democrats in the House were able to get the votes needed to pass the bill introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The margin, however, was extremely close for a party with a commanding majority – 220-215, with 39 Democrats opposing the bill and one lone Republican, Joseph Cao of New Orleans, voting to pass the bill, saying it’s what his constituents wanted and that President Obama has promised to work with him on some project in his home state.
Liberals are giddy with the victory, and there’s some momentary depression on the right. Passage seemed almost assured in the House, anyway, however, and it was only some last-minute wrangling with Bart Stupak and the passage of his abortion-funding amendment that got some wavering Dems back on board. Republicans stood on principle and supported the Stupak amendment, though its passage guaranteed the bill’s passage, and they may have been better served tactically by declining to approve the amendment. Stupak seemed to indicate that it wouldn’t have mattered in either case, but you can be sure of this – the amendment won’t last in the conference committee version. If it gets stripped out, I wonder if Stupak’s Democrats will still support the bill. My guess would be yes, which makes the whole exercise meaningless.
There’s a lot of talk of “history” and “landmarks” being bandied about by people who seem to be more concerned about a legislative win than the actual content of the legislation. Pelosi’s bill imposes an individual mandate and penalizes those who don’t go along, as well as imposing obligations on employers who may just decide to let their employees go on the included public option. Taxes and fees are levied to pay for the monstrosity that has been estimated will cost $2 trillion after the spending kicks in. All of this for a public option that seems less like an option to keep insurers honest, but more like a first step toward a single payer system with all other regulations penalizing private insurance and gradually funneling people into the public program, creating more government dependence and, yes, socializing medicine.
I still question why Pelosi had to rush this through after 8 days of its introduction with a late-night Saturday vote when most of the nation wasn’t watching. Is that legislative deliberate, or even responsible? I have extreme doubts that any of those who voted for it had time to read most of the nearly 2,000 pages – if they bothered to read it at all.
Though it’s a setback for those seeking fiscal responsibility and responsible limited government, Ed Morrissey thinks this might be the high water mark for this version of health care. The spotlight now goes to the Senate, where the minority has more tools at its disposal and the going will be much tougher. Majority Leader Harry Reid still hasn’t unveiled his own bill, and if he simply substitutes in Pelosi’s, he’s going to have an even rougher time.
In the meantime, Doctor Zero gives an eloquent and powerful essay on why the path Congress is taking is absolutely the wrong one for health care reform and for America. I couldn’t say it any better myself. I have to say, I’m getting awfully tired of the weak canard that those who oppose the current versions of health care reform just want people to die or don’t want health care reform at all. There are ways of reforming the system piece by piece instead of a massive all-or-nothing bill that creates massive new bureaucracy and massive deficits that still won’t be covered by the crushing taxes levied to pay for it. There are ways of reforming the system that don’t threaten to reduce health care choices and drive down our the quality of care.
That’s why this current effort isn’t “reform,” it’s not a benign attempt to just offer a government plan as competition, it’s an effort that seeks to place government as the controller and driving force of national health policy. It’s why proponents are looking to single payer European states for inspiration, hardly reassuring to those who believe the government option won’t remain an option for long. And it’s why this effort has less do with fixing health care than it is about accumulating power and sticking it to those who don’t agree with you.