Gates Versus the White House

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates fired a verbal warning shot at President Obama yesterday over the White House’s continuing indecision on a new strategy — including a troop surge — that Gen. Stanley McChrystal has recommended for Afghanistan.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said on Sunday, “It would be reckless to make a decision on U.S. troop level if, in fact, you haven’t done a thorough analysis of whether, in fact, there’s an Afghan partner ready to fill that space that the U.S. troops would create and become a true partner in governing the Afghan country.”  

The Afghan national election — still in doubt — should be decided in an early November runoff.

On Monday, Gates said, “The Obama administration needs to decide on a war strategy for Afghanistan without waiting for a government there to be widely accepted as legitimate.”

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee told HUMAN EVENTS yesterday this indicates politics are in control of policy on Afghanistan.

“We now know that while his military advisers are kept in the dark, the President’s Afghanistan policy is being run by the White House political team,” Price said.  “At a critical time when our men and women in Afghanistan are fighting an under-resourced war without a winnable strategy, Rahm Emanuel is throwing up any roadblocks he can, all to give himself more time to find a political solution for his party’s anti-war base. The President better rethink his priorities because the clock is ticking, and each day of delay is a day our troops are in greater danger.”

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement yesterday urging Obama to stop delaying a decision on the troop surge as first outlined by Gen. Stanley McChrystal back in August.  Significant progress has been made in the election dispute through a runoff process.

“The clear message for the President is ‘no more excuses’,” Bond said.  “Delay leads to defeat, not victory; it’s critical for the Commander-in-Chief to support his commander-on-the-ground now.  The wavering in Washington is disheartening American troops, demoralizing the people of Afghanistan, and emboldening our terrorist enemies.”

Healthcare-Related Votes Meeting Roadblocks

The first vote on health care is meeting roadblocks this week as Democrats try to ram the “doc fix” bill through the Senate.  At the heart of the issue is an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Harry (D-Nev.) to pass a 10-year cost adjustment bill to address the problem of inadequate Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors. More doctors are dropping out of the system as Medicare in some cases fails to meet even the cost of providing medical services to seniors.

The “doc fix” bill adds another $247 billion to the deficit without offering any means to pay for the bill.  In an effort to protect the sleight-of-hand “deficit neutral” preliminary score from the CBO on the Senate health care “Baucus bill,” Reid has carved this budget-buster out of the mix.  

Reid lacks the 60 votes for cloture causing another vote delay on Tuesday.  Republicans want to offer amendments — especially amendments designed to pay for the new expenditures — but Reid wants to ram the measure through without any amendments.  The bill has stalled.

Reid’s office issued a statement saying, “Correcting the Medicare doctors’ payment discrepancy is a budgetary problem — health insurance reform tackles a serious regulatory problem.  That’s why we need to fix the Medicare doctors’ payments first, outside of health reform.”

The roadblocks to “doc fix” show why Reid is almost certainly going to use the mechanism of “budget reconciliation” to pass the main Obamacare bill (which then may be known as “Harrycare” at least in Nevada, where Reid is facing a tough reelection race next year.)

A reconciliation bill in the Senate does not require cloture because — as a privileged measure under special rules — it can pass by only 51 votes.  Debate is limited to 20 hours and amendments must be germane to the actual bill.  (There is the Byrd Rule which subjects the bill to points of order decided by the Senate parliamentarian on the germaneness criterion.  The parliamentarian can be overruled by the 60-vote majority.)  

Over in the House, the Democrats are right on track to offer up a budget reconciliation bill.  

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has indicated that the House will bring health care to the floor by the first week of November.  Yet as the Senate bogs down, it begs the question, just what’s left to be done for the House to send H.R 3200 (or some new version of it) to the Senate as a budget reconciliation measure?

To meet the reconciliation instruction requirements, the Education and Labor Committee must report not only H.R. 3200 to the Budget Committee but also H.R.3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, which was included in their reconciliation instructions.  They’ve already done both.  Ways and Means reported H.R. 3200 to the Budget Committee last Thursday.  Energy and Commerce has not yet done so, but they could report their version of the bill directly to the Rules Committee if need be.

The Budget Committee only requires one day’s notice to send the bills they’ve received to the Rules Committee with a straight party-line vote.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would then merge all the bills together into the final bill that says what she wants it to say.    

The House Democrat leadership has been working behind closed doors and most believe their compromise bill is already done, kicking Blue Dog Democrats to the curb.  They keep in all of the horrors in the bill: government control of health care decisions, federal funding of abortion, health care for illegal aliens, comparative effectiveness, rationing — the hard core leftist bill.

There is no requirement for either floor debate or amendments.  In the House, the rules are whatever the majority party says they are.  Their only limitation is the long-standing “Martial Law” rule stating the bill cannot report out of the Rules Committee and be scheduled for a floor vote in the same day.  And the Rules Committee only requires one hour’s notice.

The real kicker?  Should the House and Senate follow normal procedures, budget reconciliation can be used to try to pass the Conference Report.  

If the House passes H.R. 3200 with its radical, in-your-face government option, and the Senate passes a more watered down bill, the bills would go to conference to iron out the differences.  The conference could then send their Conference Report to the Senate as a reconciliation measure that would again limit debate and require only 51 votes for passage.

Harry Reid doesn’t have 60 votes to pass the “public option” government-run health insurance plan in the Senate. But he may be able to gather 51.

The process reminds me of Iran enriching uranium. They say they’re not doing it, then you find out they are. Then they say they’re only enriching uranium for domestic energy use, not to develop a bomb. And nobody would be actually surprised if Iran ends up with a nuke.

The same goes for the health care nuclear option. We’re watching Democrats check every box and meet every deadline as they prepare for a health care reconciliation bill.  Only the terminally naïve will be surprised when Democrats try to railroad a government takeover of one-sixth of the nation’s economy through an unprecedented bastardization of the parliamentary process.

It’s highly likely that House Pelosicrats will hand the Senate a budget reconciliation health care bill if they fail to get their nationalization of healthcare through normal procedure.  If it costs a few Democrats their jobs, so be it.  They’re not concerned.  Not only are hard core Pelosicrats in safe districts, but their comrades will have sacrificed their careers at the altar of socialist ideology.  In their view, what could possibly be nobler?  

Politics is war by other means and the statists are playing for keeps.