President Obama and congressional Dems are planning two big “rope-a-dope” plays worthy of Muhammad Ali to get Obama’s nationalization of healthcare passed.
First, there’s a strategy to pass amendments — making the current Senate bill more palatable to liberals — and have the president wait to sign it until the House passes the Senate bill.
Second, having scored heavily against the Republicans in his visit to the Republican retreat in Baltimore a few weeks ago, Obama is inviting Republican House and Senate leaders to the White House for a healthcare “summit” on February 25. But that meeting is being planned as another Obama-dominated television event at which Republicans will be pummeled before a national audience.
(Obama thought the Baltimore meeting went so well he offered the same sort of “question and answer” session to Senate Repubs. Seeing how the House session went, they declined quickly and firmly.)
“Bipartisanship depends on a willingness among both Democrats and Republicans to put aside matters of party for the good of the country,” the President said to reporters yesterday after a meeting with congressional leaders. “I won’t hesitate to embrace a good idea from my friends in the minority party, but I also won’t hesitate to condemn what I consider to be obstinacy that’s rooted not in substantive disagreements but in political expedience.”
Yet according to reports yesterday, the February 25 health care “summit” is just another in a long charade of dog and pony shows. According to Wendell Primus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top health care aide, the end game has already been decided behind closed doors by Democrats who have no intention of letting this opportunity for cradle to grave control over the American people slip away when it’s so close.
Congress Daily is reporting details of the “trick” on the American people as spilled yesterday by Primus. The Senate would pass a reconciliation bill requiring only 50 votes (Vice President Biden could break the tie) that would make changes to the Senate version of the health care bill that has not yet been passed by the House. You read that right.
Wendell Primus said the plan is to have President Obama sign the Senate bill before signing the legislation making the changes, even though Congress will approve them in reverse to satisfy skeptical House members who refuse to pass the Senate bill before changes are made.
“The trick in all of this is that the president would have to sign the Senate bill first, then the reconciliation bill second, and the reconciliation bill would trump the Senate bill,” Wendell Primus told health policy experts gathered at the National Health Policy Conference hosted by Academy Health and Health Affairs.
Some have questioned whether rules would allow Congress to pass changes to a bill that is not yet law. House members have insisted both chambers approve the changes, which likely will go through the reconciliation process to require 51 votes rather than the 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, before they pass they [sic] Senate bill.
Primus also mentioned bill drafters would need to use certain language to ensure the plan works, although he did not elaborate.
“There’s a certain skill, there’s a trick, but I think we’ll get it done,” he said.
The Senate reconciliation bill trick that would “fix” the Senate-passed health care bill would then have to pass the House. If the fix trick is passed, the plan is to then pass the Senate health care bill through the House and send it all to the President’s desk for signature.
Reconciliation bills are limited to budgetary matters subject to the Byrd Rule in the Senate, parliamentary rulings and a 60-vote threshold to set aside the rulings. Democrats may be able to slide by that rule if the parliamentarian cooperates.
The American people have made it perfectly clear they reject the Democrats’ plan for a government takeover of health care. Health care is a policy that impacts every single American that should not pass through questionable trickery and process gimmicks, especially given the substantial majorities enjoyed by Democrats in both chambers. This speaks volumes about how bad the 2,700-page bill actually is.
House Republican Leader John Boehner and Republican Whip Eric Cantor sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel Monday asking for details on the proposed February 25 summit.
When asked by Greta Van Susteren on Fox News last night if Republicans would attend, Boehner said he was awaiting answers from the White House.
“There are a number of questions I’d like answered before I give you or the President an up or down answer,” Boehner told Fox News last night.
Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith told HUMAN EVENTS last night that they have not received a formal invitation, any details on the event or a response to their letter.
Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl didn’t appear optimistic about a summit.
“If the point is to listen to Republican ideas and really consider them, the President’s announcement is very welcome,” Kyl said. “According to an AP story [Tuesday], however, White House officials have made it clear ‘that Obama does not intend to restart the health care legislative process from scratch’ and ‘that he’s adamant about passing comprehensive reform similar to the bills passed by the House and Senate.’”
“Such preconditions suggest the White House is not serious about genuine negotiations,” Kyl said. “A large majority of the American people strongly oppose the Democrats’ massive bill, and Republicans will not abandon them.”
Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (R-Ga.) is also skeptical of the summit’s purpose.
“It seems the only play the President knows how to run is a hollow PR blitz,” Price said. “Republicans welcome honest discussion, but this event reeks of political gamesmanship. Throughout this debate, Republicans have been stiff-armed from participating, our plans ignored, and our ideas blatantly misrepresented. It’s quite telling that only now, once the President’s plan is considered to be on political life support, does the White House seek input from Republicans.”
“The only constructive discussions will start with a blank sheet of paper,” Price continued. “The American people have soundly rejected the President’s big-government approach to health care, and tinkering at the margins of it will not bring about bipartisan consensus. Enacting positive health care reform still remains possible, but it will require the President to accept that his plan is a non-starter with the American people.”
Indeed it is madness to participate in a sham White House summit that merely provides high-profile, “bi-partisan” political cover for Democrat plans that are already in motion to pass government-run health care through reconciliation.
Senate Rejects SEIU Labor Board Nominee
The nomination of SEIU and AFL-CIO counsel Craig Becker to serve on the non-partisan National Labor Relations Board did not achieve the necessary 60-vote margin to reach cloture in the Senate yesterday that would end debate and force a vote on the nominee. Democrat Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas joined Republicans in the 52-33 vote. There were 15 senators not voting.
Back to back snowstorms have crippled the nation’s capitol making travel in and out of the city difficult to impossible. The House has postponed all votes for the week and the Senate has officially announced a shutdown for Wednesday.
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) was present and voted with the rest of the Republicans against cloture.