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.
The crucial votes in Congress may be over, but the public debate has just begun. And maybe the blue dogs who went for Obamacare will wind up on the winning side of this debate, too. You can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time. Who knows, Americans may be just dying to have government take over our health care. Stay tuned. Especially come Tuesday night, November 2nd, as the results of the congressional elections begin to pour in.
A lot of funny figures were used to get this bill past the scrutiny of the Congressional Budget Office. How long before they become, to borrow a Nixonian term, inoperative? Is the same Congress that passed this piece of work really going to slash Medicare and reimbursements payments for doctors and hospitals across the country? That'll be the self-defeating day.
This health-care reform could prove even more popular than HIPAA in medical circles. (That's the great reform that keeps you from finding friends and relations once they've entered the recesses of a hospital.) Slowly, more and more is sure to be learned about just what is contained in this health-care bill in a poke. Welcome to the age of deem-and-pass, pronounced Demon Pass.
The nation has a new guiding principle: Vote first, debate later. The words of Speaker Pelosi could serve as the motto of this Congress: "We have to pass the bill, so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy."
Away from the fog of controversy. Beautiful. What a perfect encapsulation of the spirit -- or spiritlessness -- of this whole effort to reform, deform and mainly complicate the country's health-care system. Open, democratic debate now is just a fog to be brushed away. Our betters have decided what is best for is. And we'll all be thankful they did. We citizen-patients are to adopt an air of quiet resignation; it's time to brush away any controversy.
But something about that deep rumbling out in the country says We the People have only begun to controvert. To quote a prominent Republican, "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it." -- A. Lincoln. The House now has cast its vote. We the People get to cast ours in November.
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