02.28.2010 0

Obama’s Reconciliation Lie

  • On: 03/10/2010 09:57:49
  • In: Health Care
  • By Derek Baker

    Less than one week ago, President Obama stood before an assembled audience of hand- picked sympathizers on healthcare reform at the White House and called on Congress to pass his healthcare reform package into law… again.

    Having spent his entire year long presidency singularly focused on passing a massive, trillion dollar, federal government takeover of the healthcare industry in America, and failed – Obama had a couple of choices going forward. With an American public now solidly against his healthcare proposal, and his Democrat margins in both houses of Congress now a wee bit slimmer, Obama was forced to choose between either a) substantially altering his healthcare proposal to make it more palatable and bipartisan as he claims is his goal, or b) forging ahead with virtually the same heavy-handed government takeover package and hope to woo skeptical Americans and Democratic lawmakers by the sheer force of his personality.

    In Obama’s speech – a rather short one for him of only 21 minutes – he made it clear that he is opting for Plan B. Obama stated: “No matter which approach you favor, I believe the U.S. Congress owes the American people a final vote on healthcare reform. We have debated this issue thoroughly. Not just for the past year, but for decades. Reform has already passed the House with a majority. It has already passed the Senate with a super-majority of 60 votes. And now it deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that was cast on welfare reform, that was cast on the children’s health insurance program, that was used for cobra health coverage for the unemployed, and by the way for both Bush tax cuts, all of which had to pass Congress with nothing more than a simple majority.”

    In other words, he plans to utilize budget reconciliation to pass ObamaCare, which requires only a simple majority in both chambers. And Obama appealed to history, citing five specific examples of major legislation that was passed using reconciliation.

    Here’s the only problem with Obama’s appeal: every bill he cited was passed with bipartisan support. This is, of course, precisely the opposite of what is occurring on ObamaCare, where the minority party is unanimously opposed to the entire package. In fact, reconciliation has been used nearly 20 times since it’s origination in 1981, but never once in a completely partisan fashion to pass major social legislation. Not once.

    A quick review of the actual legislation Obama cited shows example after example of bipartisan support. Both Bush tax cuts were passed with Democrat votes in both chambers. Cobra was enacted in 1986 with a Republican controlled White House and Senate and a Democrat controlled House. Landmark welfare reform was passed by a Republican controlled Congress (with 125 Democrat votes from both chambers) and signed into law by President Clinton, as was the Children’s Health Program in 1997 within the Balanced Budget Act.

    Republican claims that Obama’s intended use of reconciliation to pass his version of healthcare reform is unprecedented (what the word really means, not how Obama uses it) and hyper partisan is absolutely true. It would be complimenting Obama to say he was being merely disingenuous in his stated reason for using reconciliation.

    In the same speech noted above, Obama portended to take the high road by maintaining “I do not know how this plays politically, but I know it’s right” and saying he would “provide the leadership” the American people so desperately want on healthcare reform. Perhaps Obama is genuine in stating he does not know how this will play politically, but Americans seem to know instinctively, and they are not calling it leadership, they’re calling it a lie.

    Derek Baker is a contributor to ALG News.

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