Meet the Beltway bloodsuckers. They convene in the dead of night, when most ordinary mortals have left work and let their guard down or are lying asleep in bed. Pale-faced and insatiable, the nocturnal thieves do their nefarious business in backrooms and secret chambers. Their primary victims? Taxpayers, the free market and deliberative democracy.
Democratic leaders have been promising the most ethical, transparent, open and engaged administration for years. Instead, they have delivered a bleak and creepy legislative environment that could double as a “Twilight” movie set.
Skulking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rammed the government health care takeover package through under the cover of darkness before Thanksgiving and Christmas. House Democratic leaders forbade debate on all but one amendment not authored by themselves. The Senate Finance Committee killed a GOP amendment that would have required Demcare to be available online for 72 hours before the committee voted. Reid and his Volterra-style henchmen cut last-minute cash-for-cloture deals behind closed doors.
And now House and Senate Democratic leaders are reportedly preparing to cut dissenters out of the reconciliation process by bypassing the formal conference committee.
In Hill parlance, this legislative shortcut is called “ping-ponging.” A better game analogy: dodgeball. With mounting opposition from both conservative Republicans and progressive Democrats, President Obama’s water-carriers must use every trick in the book to speed the final merging and passage of the bill before the end of the month.
The hypocrisy reeks stronger than rotting garlic. In 2006, House Democrats asserted that “House-Senate conferences are a critical part of the deliberative process because they produce the final legislative product that will become the law of the land.” That same year, Reid railed on the Senate floor against informal deal-making that circumvented the conference committee process -- and he attacked the use of manager’s amendments to avoid public scrutiny: