I have been interested in politics for as long as I can remember. When I was in primary school I watched the Watergate Hearings and tried to understand what was going on. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening, but I knew that it was important.
Fast forward over thirty-five years. This time I know what is happening and recognize it’s importance, and maybe as a result I can’t watch with the same detachment I had when I was eight years old.
What is happening with Obama’s health care legislation is one of the most disgusting abuse of power events I can recall. For the past three months we have witnessed the legislative process built up over the Constitution’s 220 years shattered by the House, Senate and Executive Democratic leadership. First the Republican’s filibuster in the Senate survived by the election of Scott Brown. To get around that the Pelosi, Reid and Obama dusted off the nuclear option, reconciliation – a process that Sen. Robert Byrd, it’s designer, and Obama himself claimed should not be used to pass health care. Now Speaker Pelosi, apparently lacking the majority of house votes necessary to pass the bill in reconciliation, is threatening to use “Deem and Pass” – a maneuver that allows the bill to move forward without a vote.
As one political commentator on Fox News pointed out, why have a Congress if you are simply going to make laws without following the rules? Yes, reconciliation and even “deem and pass” have been used before, but on minor changes to bills and budgets, not the partisan $1 trillion government takeovers of the private sector. He felt that the whole health care mess was ripping at the very fabric of the legislative process.
It’s not uncommon for legislative bodies to do whatever it takes to please a leader. For example Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez demanded and eventually received the power he needed to turn Venezuela from a multi-party democratic state to a one-party communist state. Venezuela’s economy has gone from one of Latin America’s most vibrant to the zombie-like communist state the likes of which I thought we saw the last of when the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989.
This is not to say that Obama is an American Hugo Chavez. As much as I detest and dislike our current president, I don’t see him as anywhere near as dangerous as Hugo Chavez. What I do see, however, is the President, along with the Speaker and Senate Majority Leader setting precedents that will be used in the future by others holding their positions who may have more in common with Chavez. By ignoring the limits today with health care, what will stop others from ignoring the limits of legislative power on declaring war, defaulting on debt, or making abortion or gay marriage illegal? What Obama, Reid and Pelosi are doing today is damaging the legislative process and making it easier for demagogues to use it in the future. In that respect today’s Congress is not very different from Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly that voted in 1999 to revise the Venezuelan constitution to make it more to Chavez’s liking.
But there is one key difference between that 1999 assembly and America’s 2010 Congress: the National Assembly’s vote didn’t use parliamentary tricks to pass the law.
I wish a member of Congress would stand up under the dome and say “Madame Speaker, have you no shame?” What won’t Pelosi, Reid and Obama do to pass one of their prized pieces of legislation? It’s clear that they don’t care what happens to the legislative process as a result of ramming this bill through. Pelosi and Reid know they are on a death-march. It is likely that come November either or both will be out of a job. Obama’s position is safer – for now – and his executive authority will prevent Republicans from undoing this monstrosity until 2013 at the earliest.
There will come a time, though, when Democrats will regret the tear they have made in the fabric of our nation. It’s not unimaginable that we will see a Republican House, Senate and President sometime within the next decade. The legislative branch, one of the 3 equal branches of our government, will have weakened itself for what? A likely one term president who is more concerned with being an historical figure than with governing. And when that happens, the Democrats will have no choice but to sit on the sidelines and watch the Right run amok. Beyond that, though, lies the greater danger that an unknown demagogue will arise on the Left or the Right, and use Congress to rubber stamp his policies.
After all, that’s all that Venezuela’s National Assembly has become: a rubber stamp for Hugo Chavez’s whims.