Critical Condition

What’s Next . . . with David Dreier

Today’s House Budget Committee markup of the Democrats’ 2,309-page health-care bill is largely a formality — the construction of a legislative shell. HBC, as Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), points out, can’t do much except make recommendations to the House Rules Committee. HRC is where the real reconciliation package will be hammered out, probably later this week. Politically, timing is crucial. As NPR reports, “House Dems will attempt to pass the Senate health bill at the same time the House approves the rule for debate on the reconciliation bill.”

Can Republicans on the HRC do anything to stop this train? National Review Online spoke with Rep. David Dreier (R., Calif.), the HRC’s ranking member, to find out. “Process is substance,” he says. “They won’t engage in debate. They’re putting in their deals and sticking to their talking points in speeches. When it comes to any deals, I won’t be privy to them. They won’t reach out to share that information with me, that’s for sure.”

“It’s absolutely outrageous that the Democrats would take a process that has to do with tax increases and spending cuts and try to utilize it to takeover one-sixth of the economy,” Dreier says. “And their confidence in the Senate, to take up any changes, is a pipe dream. Anyone who thinks the Senate is going to fix up the ‘Louisiana Purchase’ and the ‘Cornhusker Kickback’ is whistling in the wind.”

“Our committee’s meeting won’t be the fait accompli,” Dreier says. “The real fait accompli will be when the bill is scheduled for a vote on the floor. I’m convinced that they will pretty much get it done if they can get it there. Having been in that position before, I’m sure they will roll the dice if they’re three or four votes short.”

What happens if it passes? Dreier believes that Obamacare could lead to, at least in part, a new socialist direction for the United States. “When the president went to Pennsylvania last week and said we’ve tried the free market and it didn’t work, I was stunned,” he says. “I’ve always resisted the temptation into which some of my colleagues have been drawn, to throw the ‘s word’ out there — socialism. I just don’t do it. Chris Matthews comes on and says that true socialism is a government takeover of industry. Fine, but when you have a president who says we tried the free market and it didn’t work, that sounds like what he’s advocating.”

Dreier adds that if Obamacare passes, Americans won’t accept it. “Thankfully, the citizens in our center-right country are trending in the right direction,” he says. “We just have extreme-left leadership. Even Democrats I speak with say [the Obama agenda] isn’t something they’re comfortable with, that it isn’t something they signed up for when they ran against Bush.”

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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