It was Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009. Congress was planning to vote the next day on a so-called "stimulus" bill anticipated to cost $787 billion. The final text of the bill had not been published, so no one knew exactly what it would authorize the government to do.
Ryan Byrnes and Edwin Mora of CNSNews.com went to the Capitol that day to ask representatives and senators a simple question: Would they read the final text of the stimulus bill in its entirety before voting on it?
Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey answered honestly -- on behalf of the entire Congress. "No, I don't think anyone will have the chance to," he said.
Late that night, the bill was finally posted online by the House Appropriations Committee. It was 1,071 pages long.
On Friday morning, when the CNSNews.com story quoting Lautenberg was posted, it was picked up prominently by The Drudge Report -- helping Americans learn something unlikely to be reported by the liberal media.
As Congress rushed that day to make the 1,071-page bill law, House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio went to the House floor and made the same observation as Lautenberg. "Not one" member had read it, said Boehner.
Not one member rebutted him.
One element of this massive bill, it turned out, called for "a nationwide health information technology infrastructure" that would include an "electronic health record" for "each person in the United States by 2014."
Doctors and hospitals not complying with this mandate, the bill said, would be penalized by having their Medicare payments diminished.
Former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey tried to draw attention to these provisions when they appeared in an earlier version of the bill.
"Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors," McCaughey wrote in a Feb. 9 commentary for Bloomberg.com. "But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective."
What did these provisions have to do with immediately stimulating the economy? Nothing. They were really about quietly pre-positioning a potentially controversial element of a new national health-care system.
Nor did President Obama or congressional leaders want Americans to seriously study the health-care bill itself.
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