President Obama was supposed the first post-partisan president who would usher in a new era of openness and transparency in government. But the Democrats that are charged with sheparding his policies through Congress are rapidly making him the most-partisan President.
From February’s largely party-line passage of the stimulus package — 60-38 in the Senate and 246-183 in the House — congressional action has only gotten more desperately partisan.
In May, Rep. Henry Waxman rammed the Waxman-Markey climate bill through the House Energy and Commerce on a partisan 33-25 vote without providing committee members with a thorough analysis of the bill by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Then at 3:00 am on the day of the final House vote on Waxman-Markey, Rep. Waxman dropped a 300-page amendment on the 1,200-page bill and then forced members to vote on the bill a scant 15 hours later. So much for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s promise to make bills available to the public for 72 hours before a vote.
Although the bill passed (barely) by a vote of 219-212, the process was so ugly that House Democrats were forced to “buy” votes. Toledo Rep. Marcy Kaptur, for example, received a promise of $3.2 billion for her district in exchange for her vote.
Most-partisan-itis then hit the Senate with the Kerry-Boxer climate bill. When the bill was introduced in October, Senate Republicans requested an analysis of the bill from the EPA. But Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer killed the request, prompting Committee Republicans to boycott Committee markup of the bill.
When asked why she denied the Republican request for an EPA analysis of the bill, Chairman Boxer pointed to the precedent that Rep. Waxman established in May, when he pushed the Waxman-Markey bill through his Committee without the benefit of an EPA analysis.
Then, in a move unprecedented in Senate history and expressly contrary Committee rules requiring at least two members of the minority party on the Committee to be present at a markup, Chairman Boxer rammed the bill through to a near-unanimous Democrat-only Committee vote.
This brings us to now infamous Saturday 11pm-ish vote the House version of health care reform. Not only did Speaker Pelosi again break her promise to make the 2,000-page bill available to the public for 72 hours before the vote, but House members had scant opportunity for debate. Most members who spoke, on either side of the bill, were allotted one minute to speak — enough time to utter a few cartoonish platitudes about the bill, but hardly enough time for meaningful debate.
Majority leader Harry Reid has now promised to bring health care to a vote in the Senate before the end of the year, even though there is no Senate health bill yet. This only means that Senators, like their House colleagues, will be forced to vote on a bill that they cannot possibly understand, if they even have the opportunity to read it.
While its no secret that Democrats view both climate change and health care as a means of dramatically expanding the role of the federal government in our lives and, as such, are top priorities for the party, they are going about the legislative process as if there is no tomorrow.
Democrats are willing to destroy all hope of working with Republicans for common ground solutions and to damage the integrity of the legislative process so they can tell their constituents in 2010, “We did it.”
The irony, of course, is that no will know what they have done since no one has had the time to read and understand these massive bills, much less the opportunity to debate them.