Cruel September

T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month, because it mixes hope with desire.  For Democrats, April was easy, washed away in the Obama spending tsunami.

September will be the cruelest month for Democrats because their hope to pass Obamacare and cap-and-trade has run headlong into the opposition of their untrusting constituents.

Just as they left for their summer vacation, House Democrats were given a strategy memo by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The strategy memo said, (as HUMAN EVENTS’ Connie Hair reported on August 3) “Winning the health reform debate in August requires nothing less than an aggressive, multi-front effort to control the message and keep the momentum moving forward.”

At that point, Gallup reported that only 20% of Americans believe the healthcare system is in crisis and even fewer — 16% — say healthcare reform was the top priority.

Democrats — including Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — spent the month calling their constituents names.  Among the insults they hurled were that the vocal town hall opponents of Obamacare were “un-American”, “evil mongers.” And Indiana’s answer to Snoopy, “Red” Baron Hill, said their words were those of domestic terrorists.

So how did that work out? 

A week before congress comes back, the latest Rasmussen report — released yesterday –found that 57% of American voters “would vote to replace the entire Congress and start all over again.”  

Since the 2007 illegal immigration debate, Americans have been increasingly angry at a congress that doesn’t represent their interests.  All through August, Democrats mistook voters’ frustration for fear, anger at congressional chicanery for politically-manipulated opposition to Obamacare. 

Summing up the liberals’ predicament on healthcare was the best headline of the year. Under the banner, “Reid under pressure to rein in centrists,” The Hill reported that “Liberal activists are pressuring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and party leaders to crack down on renegade centrist Democrats who might block President Obama’s healthcare overhaul.” 

Parse that out in your mind.  Liberals want Reid, Pelosi and Obama to crack down on moderates in order to pass their most radical plan.   

Their targets are Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark), Mary Landrieu (D-La) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb). In the House, the liberals’ bullseye is painted on the backs of the “Blue Dogs.”

When Congress returns on September 8th, it will have only seventeen legislative days left in the year unless Pelosi and Reid extend the calendar. If they do, they can keep congress in session all the way to Christmas week.  If the Senate attended to normal business, those few days would be consumed in accomplishing the usual congressional responsibilities — such as passing authorization and appropriations bills — which so far have been neglected.

That can be done by passing the bills — which is unlikely — or by passing a continuing resolution to encompass them all. 

“CRs”, in Washington lingo, are massive piles of paper dwarfing even the 1000-page Obamacare bill.  And — to be polite — they are really messy because they can, and usually do, carry all sorts of extraneous legislation tacked on in last-minute amendments. 

The threat of closing down the government if the CR isn’t passed is usually sufficient to cower Republicans who don’t want to be blamed for everything from stopping grandma’s Social Security check to denying our troops funding to continue the fight against terrorists.

Reid and Pelosi will use every tool at their disposal — including the CR and the close-the-government threat — to pass Obamacare and the “cap and trade” global warming tax.  The “radical moderates” can expect enormous pressure from them and the White House to vote for whatever formulation of them congressional leaders cobble together, in bits and pieces, to pass those bills. 

And the bits and pieces can be stuck in different bills. Passed in February, the “stimulus” bill included the mechanism for rationing medical care, the “Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research.”  That panel is already empowered to make cost-effectiveness decisions to deny medical care to the elderly and other patients whose life expectancy is not long enough to be worth the cost of treatment.

Reid and Pelosi have to deal with members who have heard – loudly and continuously through August — from millions of constituents who trust neither their elected officials nor their leaders.  In the Senate, Reid has to gather 60 votes to pass anything subject to filibuster.  Reid may count on liberal Republicans — such as Sens. Lindsay Graham, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins — to support these measures.

Even if they don’t, Reid and Pelosi have another parliamentary maneuver — called “reconciliation” — to get the president’s most-wanted measure, Obamacare, through Congress.  Under reconciliation, the rules are changed and the filibuster isn’t available.  Only a majority — 51 votes — is necessary to pass the privileged measure.

Reid may use reconciliation to pass measures that are supposed to reduce federal spending to match budget goals.  He and Pelosi planned for this occasion. They paved the way to use it by including loosely-worded budget “instructions” in the $3.6 trillion Obama budget passed earlier this year.  Those instructions can be used to invoke the special reconciliation procedure to include Obamacare (or cap-and-trade, or both) in an omnibus bill that will pass by majority vote.

Using “reconciliation” to pass Obamacare is the political equivalent of asking a nun to be the understudy for Madonna.

And never mind that the Obamacare proposal is another budget-buster, with probable additional costs over the next ten years in excess of $1 trillion.  And Republican objections to extraneous legislation being included in a reconciliation bill can be overcome.

As the New York Times said, in an editorial advocating the use of reconciliation to pass Obamacare, “Even the public plan so reviled by Republicans could probably qualify, especially if it is given greater power than currently planned to dictate the prices it will pay to hospitals, doctors, drug companies and other providers, thus saving the government lots of money in subsidies.”

Gaming the budget reconciliation by falsely promising cost savings — or imposing more limits on available medical care — is the key, and both Reid and Pelosi will gladly force the play.  Liberals will love the idea of giving the government more power to achieve fictional budget savings.

No matter how you dissect Obamacare and cap-and-trade the nation cannot afford for either to pass.  They are bad policy and would be bad law. 

Moderate Democrats and liberal Republicans must know by now that their political futures depend on how they vote on those issues.  The public is fed up with Congress and ready to turn many of them out.  And so should they be. 

Cruel September?  Let’s hope it will be hot and uncomfortable in the Capitol.