Critical Condition

Ramming It Through as the End Draws Near

After more than a year of debate on health-care reform, it seems the end is in sight. This morning in Ohio, President Obama gave what was close to his 40th speech on the topic. He is pulling out all the stops to muster support for his plan before the Easter recess. He postponed his trip to Australia and Indonesia for three days and does not want to postpone it further. From reading the many press reports, including those from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, it looks like the vote may come later this week.

Late Sunday evening, the House Democrats released an amended 2,309-page health-care bill that is intended to start the budget-reconciliation process, in which the Senate would need only 51 votes to pass the “fixed” bill. The plan is for the House Budget Committee to begin the markup today and then send it to the Rules Committee, which is headed by Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.) of “Slaughter Solution” fame. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its estimate of the cost very soon.

But the devil is always in the details. In today’s Wall Street Journal, constitutional scholar and former Tenth Circuit judge Mike McConnell writes that the Slaughter Solution is unconstitutional:

Reconciliation is permitted only for bills that amend existing law, not for amendments to bills that have yet to be enacted. This means that, for the Senate to be able to avoid a filibuster, House Democrats first have to vote for the identical bill that passed the Senate last Christmas Eve. That means voting aye on the special deals, aye on abortion coverage, and aye on high taxes on expensive health-insurance plans. Challengers are salivating at the prospect of running against incumbents who vote for these provisions.

This is not what the president, Pelosi, and Reid wanted to hear.

Pelosi is running around trying to get assurances from senators that they will vote for the amended bill. If Pelosi cannot get the 216 votes, I think health-care reform as currently outlined is dead. It will be time to go back to the drawing board and focus on developing a plan that is based on patient-centered solutions, including changing the tax code so that individual plans receive the same tax treatment as employer-based coverage, encouraging medical-malpractice reform at the state level, reducing state mandates, and reducing regulations on HSAs. Only then will we have real reform, with costs coming down and the number of insured going up. These are ideas that the Republicans have been outlining for months, but unfortunately, the Democrats have turned a blind eye.

Since last summer, the American people have made their dissatisfaction with the Democrats’ plans known. The latest CNN poll shows that only 25 percent support the current bill. Yet President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Reid do not seem interested in the views of the electorate. They don’t even care if their party loses House and Senate seats. They want to put government in charge of our health care.

It will be a disaster for doctors and patients alike. This bill will not cost $875 billion or $1.05 trillion over ten years; it will most likely cost in excess of $2 trillion. Our taxes will go up, deficits will go up, and our care will be rationed.

If this bill becomes law, it will be the largest expansion in government in this country since the Great Society. In the interest of our health, let’s hope that the simple “up or down vote” is down. Something as important as our health should not be rammed through against the wishes of the American people.

I stuck my neck out a week ago Saturday at a cardiology conference, where I was debating former Colorado governor Dick Lamm: I predicted Pelosi could not get the votes. He disagreed, so we shall see.

– Sally C. Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care.

Sally C. Pipes is the president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care (Encounter). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.

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