As the Democrats in Congress approach the end of a frustrating first year's legislative effort, their leaders and the White House are being tempted by three possible shortcuts around the regular lawmaking process. Though the Democrats have a majority of 20 seats in the Senate and 79 seats in the House, now, just a week before Christmas, the speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader and the White House have failed -- so far -- to pass into law their desired legislation in the matters of 1) health care provision and financing, 2) public debt and deficit reduction, and 3) carbon regulation and taxation.
Given the extraordinary effects such policy changes would have on the American economy and the American way of life, to enact such changes without benefit of informed majority votes in the House and Senate would be in violation of the constitutional process -- certainly in spirit, perhaps in form.
The schemes, I suppose, are thought to be clever. On health care, because the Constitution requires revenue bills to originate in the House, the plan would take the shell of a minor House revenue bill, and then inserted in it would be the entire final health bill (called a Senate "manager's amendment"), negotiated largely among Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and such other party leaders as are necessary to ensure that the bill would pass both houses.
Then, with only minutes' notice, they could pass it in the Senate and hours later in the House, and it would be on the president's desk within a few more hours for his signature.
The provisions never would be seen or comprehended by most of even the Democratic Party members of the House and Senate. Certainly the public would have no chance to hear about the details, let alone a chance to contact their congressmen to express opinions.
(By contrast, the original Medicare bills were designated as H.R. 1 and S. 1 in January 1965. The House bill moved forward to markup in the Ways and Means Committee and then to passage on the floor of the House on April 8, by a vote of 313-115. The Senate approved its version July 9, 68-21. A conference committee worked for more than a week in mid-July to reconcile 513 differences between the two versions of the bill. President Lyndon Johnson then signed the Medicare bill into law, July 30, 1965.)
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.