Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia: Assessing the Health Care Debate
“By what authority does the federal government have the right to dictate and in fact punish by way of fines and possible imprisonment of someone who does not purchase a health care policy that does not meet the requirements that the Congress has set out?” Cong. Nathan Deal (R-Ga), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee
Nathan Deal has been around the block. He was Chairman of the Health Subcommittee when Republicans were in control and oversaw some real reforms to Medicaid which the Democrats threw out as soon as they took over. Deal’s been a state legislator, a Congressman and is now a candidate for Governor of Georgia — where if he wins in November — he’ll likely be implementing what Congress passes on health care reform. He’s been called the House expert on health care by Democrats and Republicans and many on both sides of the aisle seek his counsel.
From the beginning of the debate, Deal has predicted there would not be a traditional conference committee on health care. “The senate had such difficulty twisting enough arms and buying enough votes to pass the bill, I didn’t think they’d take the chance of going to a conference committee where Republicans would have to appointed,” said Deal and then added, “I always thought we’d have to take the Senate bill with some minor adjustments, and that’s exactly what’s happening.”
Everything is happening behind closed doors and it’s a very high stakes game of chance. The House has to add amendments in order to get an agreement from enough House Democrats to pass it and then have a “pre-agreement” with the Democrats in the Senate to accept those changes. Then the bill is voted on in the House and then sent to the Senate to reaffirm the bill. Are you lost yet? What’s been lost is the input of the American people and it shows in the polls.
Deal also believes there are some significant bumps in the road. The schedule has been “iffy” at best and there is no real work going on so far this week with nothing on the schedule. This may mean Pelosi and company are having a harder time playing let’s make a deal.
The two things that rise to the top of the problems in reconciling the bills are the Stupak Amendment. Cong. Bart Stupak (D-Mi) led a group of Democrats to near mutiny when the House passed the bill. “He (Stupak) has indicated that he is not satisfied with the Senate language on abortion,” Deal said. The larger issue is can they satisfy him without turning away Senate Democrats that didn’t like the Stupak language in the House. Deal adds that the leadership might let Stupak vote against the bill but he doesn’t think the “coalition” will hold on abortion.
The second issue is more significant. It’s the tax on the so-called “Cadillac” health care plans. Unions are not happy with this and there are 190 House Democrats who oppose the tax. That is a significant number and will be harder to please. “Taxing the high cost health care plans is more likely a sticking point because the number s are more significant at 190 Democrats that don’t like that language. That is a huge impediment.” Deal said.
There’s not much House Republicans can do other than to continue to complain about being left out of the process. And if the bill is passed, there is also a great deal of power that is delegated to regulatory agencies to define rather than having the definition spelled out in the legislation. “That is always dangerous and especially so with something as all encompassing as this is,” Deal said.
Since the president will sign anything, he’s throwing constitutionality out the window. Speaker Pelosi laughed when someone asked her in a presser if she was worried about the constitutionality of the bill. Nathan Deal explains it this way, “For weeks we’ve had as many as 12-13 governors who have asked the attorney generals of their states to be poised to challenge the constitutionality of the bill, focusing on unequal treatment of states by a federal program.”
“I have a more fundamental concern, by what authority does the federal government have the right to dictate and in fact punish by way of fines and possible imprisonment of someone who does not purchase a health care policy that does not meet the requirements that the Congress has set out. Health care is not one of those arenas where the interstate commerce clause has prevailed, if it did then why can’t we not all buy health care policies across state lines, which is one of the proposals that republicans have put forth as the way to save on cost. That’s why we have state insurance commissioners, not federal.”
Deal knows the battle is far from over and he knows the numbers. Senator Chris Dodd says the health care legislation is hanging by a thread. Let’s hope he’s right. Hopefully with a House in disarray, the thread will be cut and we’ll go back to real health care reform. One thing is sure, Nathan will be in the fray.