Have you ever seen a more gleeful bunch of politicians than the Democratic leadership of the House as they prepared to ram the health-care bill or bills into law? Nancy Pelosi, Speaker and Precinct Captain of the House, led all the rest, swinging an outsized gavel as if it were an ax. A picture is worth a thousand words -- no, make that 400,000 -- words. Which is roughly the size of the health bill and encyclopedia just enacted into confusing law.
The smiling faces brought to mind a group of Roman solons marching triumphantly toward Vesuvius. Because this debate in Congress, which finally closed in the midnight hours Sunday, has just begun out in the country. Can you hear the rumbling underneath the political surface? And the electoral tsunami waiting to be unleashed?
The long night was over at the Capitol, but in America dawn was coming. By its early light we'll all be able to explore more of the nooks and crannies, special exemptions and sweetheart deals in this rambling hodgepodge of a bill. Waiting to be uncovered: more taxes, fees, regulations and extra-special favors for selected locales, labor unions and pet projects. Is the Louisiana Purchase still in the bill? The Cornhusker Kickback? The special exception for this bank or that special interest? It may take months or even years to find them all. What other delightful surprises lay hidden in the wrapping of this ticking package?
And what additional feats of parliamentary legerdemain await in the U.S. Senate? Will there be one or two bills for the president to sign at the end of the process? Or do I hear three from the next bidder? Why not? The rails are greased. There was a time in the republic's ancient past when the Senate was still considered a deliberative body. It is long past.
The die was cast, which is how the Romans might say the fix was in, once the 60th vote cut off debate in the Senate. After that, everything was over but the shouting and deal-making in the House. And now those blue-dog Democrats who voted for it will get to spend most of this election year defending and/or explaining away their role in this dodgy production.
Oh, the twists and turns and head fakes and political feints to come! The blue dogs who went along with this gigantic sleight-of-legislation will outdo old Crazylegs Hirsch of the Rams at running around the opposition.